It’s Memorial Day, also thought of as the unofficial start of summer, since it’s so close to the end of the school year. Since school when be closing for the summer, here’s a few ideas for those of you who might be young and have some free time on your hands. I warn you, it’s a little wordy, so we’ll continue this after the jump!
Middle School Graduates: Congratulations, you made it! You’re free!
You’ll also be the tiny fish in a vast ocean next year. Comforting thought, I know.
Yes, you have an entire summer ahead of you, but you probably shouldn’t use that as an excuse to slack off. Sure, you should definitely spend time with your friends; if you live in a large enough city, you may end up in a different high school from your friends. The tightly knit group of friends you made while in middle school might very well be broken apart. Some cities have only one high school while others can have several. It is a crap shoot. So yes, do make sure you spend time with your friends, as you may not get the chance to do it for a while. Hang out with them, play video games, hit the local Walmart, do whatever.
Remember how I said you probably shouldn’t slack off? Well, since you’ve recently graduated middle school, you should look into some part time work. Considering your age, you’ll probably be left with only a few options: a paper route, dog walking, mowing grass, babysitting and the like. Yeah, not great choices but you won’t be doing this for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Keep it part time and part time only, so you can have that time to spend with your friends.
Now here’s the thing; since you have a job of sorts, you’ll get money. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend all of it. Split your earnings–I would suggest a 60/40 or 75/25 split–and put most of your cash into savings. Keep some to spend, because yes, you’ll want pocket money but save most of it. Do the same with any cash you get for birthdays and holidays.
Don’t spend this, if you can possibly help it. You’re going to want to use it later. Much, much later.
Also, try and keep a normal sleep schedule. It’ll make the transition back to school at the end of the summer a lot easier. Trust me on this one.
High School Freshies: Well, that was interesting. But somehow, you survived. Pat yourself on the back, as it will get a bit easier from here on out.
You might have run in the same social circle as you did in middle school. You may have made new friends. Be sure to make some time to see them over the summer. That shouldn’t be too hard; by this time, you’re probably old enough to use some sort of social media. So keeping up with the friends you’ve made–old or new–will be a lot easier in that regard. But again, don’t spend all of your time at home, logging hours on your phone. Just like you might have done last summer, do a little something part time.
Now, the choices will be limited, as you probably aren’t quite old enough for a worker’s permit yet. You’ll have to choose from the aforementioned paper routes and pet-sitting. However, by this time you’ll have met with a guidance counselor at least once. You’ll have probably been asked about potential career choices and what you may wish to study in college. If you find that you enjoy babysitting, you may want to look into child care as a possible career. Enjoy taking care of animals? You might want to think of doing something in the veterinary field. But use these experiences and use them well; they might help you determine which way you want to take your future.
Also, don’t spend all your money on a new Xbox or whatever. Keep saving as much of it as you can. It will come in handy later. Good things come to those who wait.
Sophomores: You’re about halfway there. It gets easier every year but it also gets more stressful. By now, you’re probably dealing with both college and career choices. You might have a few ideas but you probably don’t have anything concrete in mind.
Now, you might also have to do some volunteer work in order to get your diploma; it’s probably going to be around 50 hours or so. You can use these hours to try a few things and see how much you might enjoy them. If you discover that you enjoy maintaining the local parks, you might want to consider a career in Parks and Rec. If you enjoy helping out at a local animal shelter, you could consider that as a potential career path. Find something you like and do it! It’ll look good on your college application.
Speaking of which, you should start narrowing your college choices down. Pick one that you really want to attend but make sure you have at least two, if not more, back ups, as you may not necessarily get into your first choice. It will suck but remember, there are only so many open slots. Keep your choices as varied as possible and you may not have to deal with that sort of disappointment.
Work on your college essay in your spare time. You’ll want to refine it so that you have something that will grab attention and get you noticed. Start on that now, while you have time. In fact, start looking over college applications in your spare time. Make sure you know what you’ll need academically in order to get into the school of your choice. It might seem early but you’ve only got two years of high school left. They will go by fast.
By now, you might actually be able to get a worker’s permit. If you can get one, do it and get a little part time something. Try not to go over twenty hours a week–most places probably won’t let you–and make sure to put in your two week notice well before school starts up again. With this job, you might actually get a bigger paycheck than you did with the previous ones; do yourself a favor and keep saving at least 60% of your earnings. Also, if you can, get everything you’ve saved into an interest bearing account. You’ll thank me later.
Make time for your friends. If they are of a like mind, you might want to volunteer together or help edit each other’s essays. It might not be as fun as fragging zombies over Xbox Live but you’ll be doing something together. Bonus: your parents might even say you’re acting all mature and responsible!
Juniors: We’re coming to the final stretch. Can you feel it? By “feel it” I mean the pressure. Your parents, your teachers, your guidance counselor, your neighbor, and possibly your neighbor’s dog might start asking where you want to study or what you want to major in while there.
Like I said, pressure.
You’ll probably have some choices picked out. If you do, research them. See what you’ll have to study in college for that particular degree. You might think being a chemical engineer sounds ridiculously cool but you might find that you have to take a ton of math. You don’t want to wander into this unprepared. Do your homework–I know, GROAN–ahead of time. It’s better to do it now and know what you’re up against rather than find out three years into the program that you hate it and want to change your major.
If you have to look into potential financing, do it now. Try to avoid private student loans if you can, as the interest rates are insane. If you can, start looking into and applying for scholarships. You can also consider grants. But get started on this now.
By now, you probably have a car so you’ll probably need a job to keep said car’s tank filled with fuel (yeah, even if you’re lucky enough to own a hybrid or electric car somehow–that energy doesn’t magically appear from the ether). So yes, you will probably be working this summer. Again, it will probably be part time. Again, resist the urge to spend all of your money; save as much of it as you can. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but it’s a great idea to save.
By now, you should probably start getting your hands on some college applications. Start filling them out. Request transcripts if you need to do so. Polish the hell out of your essay. Get ready to notify some colleges that you won’t be attending. Get ready for the SAT or ACT. Prep for any interviews you may need to do and start asking for recommendation letters. In other words, get ready for prime time because it is just around the corner.
It might help if you do this with your friends. Set up mock interviews, cram for the SAT or ACT together. Hunt for financing online together. Again, your parents will think you’re being responsible, which you are. But you’ll find this whole college thing a little less daunting if you and your friends can tackle this as a group.
Seniors: All that hassle for a piece of paper and a tassel. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Now first of all, I’m going to give you a little bit of advice that might surprise you. Remember how I told you the last few summers that you should work part time? Yeah, forget that. Unless you’re leaving home–there are some parents out there who will still shove their kids out of the nest at the age of eighteen, like it or not–skip working this summer. You’ll thank me for this, trust me. There’s a very good reason why.
I’m going to let you in on a little something that most adults won’t tell you. This is your last summer. Now, if you’re going to college, you’ll have summer breaks. But you’ll be expected to work through those. Your parents won’t necessarily be paying for your gas money or your car insurance or any of that sort of thing anymore. You’ll probably be expected to purchase your own food and clothing. You will slowly start taking care of yourself and your own household bills. After college, you’ll be expected to get an entry-level position in your chosen career.
You are never going to have another summer off again. Treasure this one and enjoy it to the fullest.
You will also want to spend as much time with your friends as possible. Ten-to-one, you won’t all be going to the same college together. Some of your friends will be studying out of state. Others will be studying at colleges in different cities in your home state. Others might study overseas. But in this case, you and your friends will be scattered to the four winds.
Unlike me, you’ll have a way to keep up with your friends. Back in the Stone Age of the 1990s, social media wasn’t really a thing. Email was just really beginning to catch on as a way of communicating. So you’ll have better resources to keep up with those friends you’ve made throughout high school.
You still may drift apart, though. You’re lives may take completely different directions and you may end up losing contact with each other. That also goes for your significant other. You may love him/her with all your heart right now but things might change. You may be pulled in two separate directions. You may end up attending two different colleges in two different states. Sure, you’ll probably keep in touch with social media but the feelings you have for each other might change.
You have to remember that. You have to accept that. It will hurt if it happens, but it is something that you both need to accept. You might not be the same people you were when you were in high school when you finally get your degree. People change. Hold on to what you have but realize that.
So use the time you have right now wisely. Make as many memories as you can with your friends. Hang out as much as possible. Hit the beach if you can. Take in some midnight showings of big blockbuster summer movies. If you have a team in your area, catch a baseball game; whether it’s the Majors or the Minors–it doesn’t matter. Fill your phones with photos and videos that you’ll want to keep for life. If you’re the artsy type, put together an album or scrapbook. If you’re the techie type, you can start a web page or a blog and use that as a virtual album. The choices are endless and they are all up to you.
Remember all that cash you were saving? This is when you use it. Use it to take a road trip, or hit a theme park of your choosing–Disney, Universal or something local–and have a blast. Go to a concert. If you’re the outdoorsy type, go on a fishing or camping trip. Or if that’s not your thing, rent a shelter at a park, get a grill and have a cookout. But end the summer on a high note, surrounded by your friends. It won’t be long before you’re packing your car and hugging your parents good-bye as they see you off to college.
You think I kid? The summer of my senior year went by as a blur. One moment, I was handed my diploma then the next, I was standing in lines at my local university, filling out paperwork. The days go by far too quickly, I know that from experience. It will go by fast.
Above all, enjoy your summer. Sadly, it won’t last forever.