Summer vacation is a time to take a break, relax, and find out who you really are through exploration. Exploring your interests, hobbies, and goals while you don’t have to worry about school is a great way to develop personally.

How can I leverage my summer activities to help me advance professionally?

Time out of the classroom should be spent self-reflecting and thinking about one’s future! Self-reflection is the key to taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

Be Goal-Oriented.

You must research what you need to accomplish for the goals that you have! If your goal is to get into college, then start out by researching what kinds of test scores, grades, and experiences you might need to be considered. Start out by researching what other people did prior to attending your target school, and see how your activities, interests, or hobbies can put you in a similar position.

If your goal is to gain an internship or job position, then understand the position’s requirements and ensure you have all the skills they desire. If you do not, then there’s no better time than summer to begin learning. You can also research what other successful applicants’ resumés look like.

LinkedIn is a great tool to get started with networking professionally. It lets you understand current, realistic trends in employment, along with the skills required to get jobs these days. You can also compare your skills with others to see how industry professionals used their experiences to get their positions.

Think about a future for yourself.

The best way to plan for the future is by making accurate predictions of the future. Here are two resources that can help you understand what careers might be available to you in the future.

For example, if by 2026, the world will need over 10 million Data Scientists, then it would be advisable to seek out a career in data science.

Choose skills you want to develop.

The top skills that employers after college look for are the ability to work in teams, critical thinking skills, drive/work ethic, self-confidence, resilience, and leadership. By using summer experience to build up these skills you will already be qualified for internships and college, and then for employment after college (if that is your goal!)

  • If you have a hobby, sport, or interest you usually pursue over the summer, then really think about what benefits it brings you, and write them all down! You’d be surprised at how many skills you may build during any given activity.

Find an Enrichment Program

Enrichment programs are designed to help students learn skills that will make them better students, better candidates for post-secondary education, and better young professionals!

At these programs, students can expect to learn about college, learn about participating in the workforce, and develop skills needed to compete and succeed professionally. If you are looking to participate, look for more information through:

  • High School Counselors or Teachers
  • Peers/Family Network
  • Religious Communities
  • Extracurricular Programs (State, Regional, National)
  • Professional Associations (e.g. National Society of Black Engineers — NSBE Jr.)
  • Museums, Art Programs

Be sure to check out the NewarkWorks: Summer Youth Employment Program!

What if I already have summer plans?

You might already have plans throughout the summer. Perhaps you’re going on vacation with your family or friends, or maybe you have to work throughout the summer to help out your family or save up some money for yourself. Regardless, don’t be afraid to document whatever it is that you are doing.

If you’re going on vacation, write about it! For example, instead of saying you went to visit your grandma down south, you can say that you went on a family retreat to rediscover your roots! If your vacation destination has a college or university, check out programs they might be offering during your stay, or go for a college visit!

If you’re working over the summer, then make sure you write about the skills that you’ve gained! For example, if you are working in the Food/Beverage, Customer Service, or Retail industries, then you can write about how your job taught you communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and other job-specific skills you’d like to exhibit.


Lastly, don’t do something just because someone else told you to. Always make sure that you are following your own path, and the best way to form your own path is through researching what’s available to you in the modern world.

Understanding this, and being metacognitive (self-aware and able to monitor your own thoughts) will help you be motivated, responsible, and organized in achieving your goals.

For example, don’t just volunteer at a random place over the summer because you think it will look good for college, but instead, try to volunteer somewhere where you can express your passions.

Always be yourself, and value yourself so that you give yourself nothing but the best opportunities for you. Regardless of what you end up doing this summer, there is always a way to make it feel rewarding, fruitful, and productive. Good luck this summer!

Content Adapted from Make Your Summer Count Towards College and Career Success event led by Kevin Hudson