Seize Your Senior Summer


IMAGE_016Tips for relaxing without being a slacker.

So, you’re graduating from high school and, as much as you might like to take the summer off to rest up for college, you can’t really afford to slack off like that.  You want to lay a good foundation this summer to build toward a successful first year on campus.  What follows is a quick list of seven essentials to help you make that happen.

Before we begin, let’s assume you will socialize and have fun with your friends before heading off to school, so I won’t cover that here.  However, with summer jobs, things can get busy, so be sure not to fall into an all-work-and-no-play groove, earning cash for college, only to look up in August and realize you haven’t seen your friends.  Go ahead and see your friends.  Have some fun.  Live a little…

But try these Seven Steps to Seize your Senior Summer, too….

1. Rest

No one thinks well when tired.  For each of the following items you’ll need to be well rested, clear headed, lucid and capable of deep thought and reflection (You know, like most of your Monday mornings over the past year).  Oh, and you’ll need to write (type?) this stuff down.  Sure, the best thinking starts in your head, but it germinates on the page where you can look at your ideas, they can stare back at you, and you both can improve together.

2. Reflect

Think back on HS as a means of knowing thyself.  What were your successes? Failures?  What do you wish you could do over?  Consider what were you good at in terms of “being a student” (i.e.. we’re you good at taking notes?  Good planning and studying?  Did you use time wisely?).  What were you good at socially?  Did you make friends quickly, or was it a slow build?  Did you keep good friends?  Why?  How?  Think back to your freshmen and sophomore years.  That’s when you were just starting out in a new place, which you are about to do all over again. Consider what went well that first and second year, what approaches you’d like to repeat when you go off to college, and what you’d do differently.

3. The June Question

Speaking of starting college, most of your focus will be on getting a good start in September, but summertime gives you a great opportunity to think about the following June.  That’s right, June!  By then you will have finished your first year with all the academic and social experiences that come with it.  Before you begin the school year, however, it’s a good idea to imagine what you’d like to be able to say in June about how it went.  Would you like to look back on your first year and say you got a 3.5 GPA? Made one good friend?  Joined a club?   These are your hopes, and these hopes should become your goals for year one.   (Reminder: Write these down.  They will come in handy in a moment.)

4. Roommate questionnaire

Surely, one of your hopes/goals is to have a good roommate experience.   That will be your ‘home life’ and if it’s not good, the rest of your life will follow suit.  Think about it.  If you’re not getting along with your roommate, it’ll be tough to focus on school day in and day out. So after you’ve completed the roommate questionnaire they gave you from school, try this one at to help you identify only the ‘deal-breakers’.

For the rest of the non-deal-breaker issues, you and your roommate(s) are just going to have to be tolerant of each other.  It helps to recognize that if you were too alike, things would be boring.  So embrace your idiosyncrasies and weird habits.  It’ll keep life interesting, and you’ll have better stories to tell.

5. EMO (Not the music and skinny jeans.  It’s your ‘Effectiveness M.O.’)

When you’re done addressing your life with others, you can then focus on your life with you.  In order to achieve all your hopes/goals, you’ll need a plan.  You will want a rich life filled with great learning and great new campus fun, and in order to fit it in, you need to plan well.  What kind of planner would you like to use?  Your school will probably give you one to write in when you get to orientation, and that should be a good one.  Maybe you want to use an online calendar synched with your phone.  Whatever it is, summertime is a great time to build a template for planning.  If you know your class times, load ’em in.  If you want to exercise, get that in your planner. Studying regularly during the week means more social time on weekends.  Plan for it!  Want a club or campus activity? Add a couple of hours in the middle of the week.  Beginning to put a plan in place now makes for better news in June.  And remember to WRITE IT DOWN (or type it in).

Oh yeah, and don’t let your family touch it.  It’s YOUR planner, not theirs. Welcome to life on your own (aka owning your life).

6. One Day of You

Before you leave, this is the best gift you can give your parents.  Sure, you’ve probably seen too much of each other, but its been mostly centered on you and your college-related stuff.  The purpose of this day is to give them a great day with you on their terms where you can just enjoy each other and set the tone fore a great relationship when you part company.

7.  Shadow

I’m betting that some sort of internship experience should be part of your collegiate years.  Prior to that formal experience, it’s a great idea to get some informal career shadowing in and, believe it or not, this summer is a great time to start.   Sit for a half hour and make a list of all the interesting professional adults you know.  Your parents, aunts or uncles.  Your friend’s dad or older sister.  Your doctor or favorite teacher.  Everyone you can think of.  Take the top two you’re most interested in, contact them, and ask if you could shadow them for a day over winter break. This is a wonderful way to dip your toes into lots of career possibility waters to see what you might like or dislike.

Plan to shadow people a few times during each break (including summers).  During each visit, be sure to ask for additional names of potential professionals to shadow in the future.  That way, it’s a self-perpetuating system, and all you need to do is set up appointments, show up, and say thank you (and write thank you notes).  Combine these ‘skimming the surface’ shadowing experiences with your more intensive internship experiences, and you’ll have the perfect melding of breadth and depth, providing great career perspective when graduation time rolls around.

Graduation time?!  Yep.  Just like high school, it’ll be here before you know it.