What Should I Do This Summer? Rising Sophomore Edition

“What else should I do this summer?” You’ve already applied for the Summer of Zen Scholarship, of course, and you took our advice and started experimenting with new stress-relief strategies. But if you’re anything like us, you’re wondering how to maximize your spare time by working towards your goals this summer.

This week, Zen Admissions is highlighting specific steps you can take right now to achieve those goals. We’re talking strategies for getting ahead of the game now, so that you start the upcoming school year feeling calm, prepared, and (of course) zen.

Today, we’re focusing on rising sophomores. You've finished your first year of high school and you're looking to maximize the next three years. This summer, use your spare time to make major progress towards those goals so that you can make the most of your sophomore year.

sharpened pencil

1. UPDATE YOUR RESUME AND DOCUMENT YOUR EXPERIENCES.

Make a list of every single one of your freshman year activities: work experience, extracurriculars, awards, summer programs, etc. Don't leave anything out, no matter how minimal it might seem to you. Gather all the relevant documentation (things like photographs, certificates, and acceptance letters), print out anything that's digital, and stash the entire pile in an easily accessible folder. This project, which will only take you a few hours to complete, will save you countless hours of stress in the coming years.

What makes this task such a lifesaver? First, you'll soon be applying for scholarships and contests that require documentation, so compiling the paperwork now means you won't have to search for it later. Second, activities that might seem like a small part of your daily life now (like a monthly volunteering gig cleaning up beach litter) may end up having a huge impact on your high school career (when you organize and lead a state-wide beach clean-up day). Keeping track of even the smallest activities now means you'll have a better understanding of your own trajectory.

2. DIVE INTO COLLEGE RESEARCH.

Think about what you’re really looking for in a college. Consider classic questions like “city vs. suburban" and “small vs. large,” but dig deeper, too. Chat with older friends and relatives about their college experiences. Ask them what they loved about their college and what they wish they had considered before making their choice. These conversations will jumpstart your own reflections about what’s important to you, and you can approach resources like online search tools and college guides with a fresh perspective.

3. TEST PREP, TEST PREP, TEST PREP.

Instead of staring at that thick SAT prep book with a looming sense of dread and avoidance, create an action plan. Aim to sit down with your prep book for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Move through the book from start to finish at an easy pace. Take note of the concepts that challenge you and return to them once you complete your first review. If you approach test prep as a long-term project rather than a last-minute cram, you’ll absorb the concepts more fully. When the official test days roll around next year, you’ll simply be brushing up on already-familiar concepts.  

4. START YOUR SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS

Look for small, local scholarships that align with your interests and experiences. Make your search more precise by using quotation marks and plus signs: "[your town]" + "scholarships" + "high school sophomores." Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of scholarship deadlines and entry requirements. Aim to enter 3 scholarships per week. This number may seem daunting at first, but once you've written a few essays, you'll discover that they can be recycled over and over by making only minor tweaks. Scholarship applications may be the most profitable way you can spend your summer, as every single application you submit increases your chances of paying off a significant chunk of your future tuition.

We would love to hear from you about how you make the most of your summer - send us an email and let us know what you're up to. Make sure to check back soon for another round of zen tips.