52 Weeks to College: Week 19

What’s our formula for an awesome summer for a rising high school senior? Find out in this blog!
May 10, 2021

Summer Projects

What are you going to do this summer? It’s a looming question for most of you, as all previous plans have been upended by the pandemic. We’re confident that you can still have a great summer!

What’s our formula for an awesome summer for a rising high school senior? Two parts of creative productivity balanced by one part of lazy fun.


You probably already have some idea of how you want to occupy the one part of lazy fun, so this post is dedicated to creative productivity. When it comes to figuring out how to fill your hours in a way that is both creative and productive, we’re big fans of chores and self-assigned projects.

Chores? That’s right, chores! You know, the basic tasks of living that someone else has probably been doing for some of you, like changing the sheets on your bed, cleaning the bathroom, doing your laundry, preparing meals, washing dishes, vacuuming.

In a little over a year, you will leave for college and become responsible for doing at least some of this stuff for yourself (top of the list – laundry). You want to be ready, and there is no better way to develop these skills than to have some practice while you are still at home.

Plus, doing chores is a great way to help out during this period when everyone is at home and there are more chores to do overall. If you aren’t already pitching in, tell your parents you’ll be doing your own laundry this summer and that you’d be happy to do the laundry for the household too. Then ask if there are one or two other chores you could do that would help.

Once you’ve decided which chores you are going to do and blocked out time for those, you get to assign yourself some projects. Projects are anything that transforms your creativity, initiative, and effort into a tangible thing that can be used by you or shared with others... or an accomplishment that can be documented.

The possibilities are endless — building a birdhouse, sewing a T-shirt, organizing photographs into a scrapbook, reading the classics, learning a language, cooking the perfect brownie, inventing a new one-person game with a broom and a tennis ball. You get the idea.

Your goal should be to assign yourself three to six projects that you can complete this summer. Need some help generating ideas for projects? Go to this wonderful website, which documents 52 creative projects that author Jeffrey Yamaguchi designed and did himself. To quote the author:

The idea of 52 Projects isn’t necessarily for you to do exactly these projects. Following something to the letter is never that much fun. The main intention is for you to do projects. Hopefully these projects will give you a starting off point, or maybe the spark that ignites the idea, perhaps a reminder of the thing that you’ve been wanting to do.”

You can also check out this list of virtual volunteer opportunities or consider becoming a citizen scientist and helping with important research.

If you’re not convinced that chores and projects are a way to spend your summer that will impress admissions officers? Just read what Emily Roper-Doten, current dean of admission and financial aid at Olin College of Engineering and former Tufts admissions officer, has to say on the subject:

Treat this time as a gift. We—those of us who will eventually read your application—know that life is slowing down around you and that your plans may be coming undone. Every junior out there is in the same boat: school is online, you can’t participate in your spring sport or try out for a role in the musical, test dates are canceled. Take the time to mourn these things and when you’ve done that, think about what you CAN do in this time.”

Can you spend time with family? Can you read that book you haven’t had time for? Can you learn to play the guitar or learn to draw cartoons from one of the amazing free tutorials that are online? Can you learn how to change the oil in the family car? Can you shave that minute off your 10K time? Can you learn to make dinner for your family? Can you write letters to loved ones or residents of a local nursing home? This is not dissimilar from the advice I give students who are considering a gap year or when it’s time to take back your Saturdays and NOT take the SAT or ACT again. I don’t want you to think about what the college admission process wants; I want you to think about how to be a whole, connected human.

You can have a productive and interesting summer — all it takes is a bit of planning, and you might even look back on as the best summer of high school!

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

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