What Should Teens Do with their Summer?

There are so many options and activities for teens during the summer, it can be totally overwhelming to choose. Many parents want to know what the “right” option is for their child, but there is no one right way to spend a summer. It completely depends on your teen, their schedule, and their goals.

When determining what your teen should do over their summer break, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your teen seem stressed out? Some teenagers have schedules during the school year that are jam packed full of activities, and they are legitimately burnt out. If your teen has been busy doing homework and extracurricular activities nonstop, they might need a break. We should teach our teens the importance of life balance, and sometimes that means taking a rest. We want them to return to school feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new year. Allow them to have downtime and the opportunity to socialize with friends. If you’re concerned that they won’t be doing anything productive, suggest they take on some volunteer work. Community service is a great way to develop new skills, build confidence, and feel valued, but at a slower pace. Volunteerism will also look great to college admissions officers and future employers.
  2. What does your teen enjoy doing? No one should spend their summer doing something that makes them miserable. Summer is a great time to try new activities through classes, improve a favorite sport, or join a club. Your teen can use fun activities to learn something new, discover a new passion, or work on skills needed for something they already love to do. They should have some fun!
  3. What are your teen’s goals for the future? Some teens are very motivated and have big dreams they want to achieve. In this case, talk to your teen about their goals and help them find a summer experience that will move them towards realizing their objectives. Colleges and employers love seeing applicants who are motivated, hard-working, and interested in learning.

Once you have talked through these questions with your teen, then you can better determine the right summer activity options for your teen. Here are some ideas:

Summer School

If your teen wants to boost their GPA, round out their college application, lighten their course load during the next school year, or just loves to learn, academic enrichment programs or summer school might be right up their alley. High schools and colleges usually offer a variety of academic enrichment programs. Programs might focus on gifted students, remedial students, opportunities to explore a certain area of interest, leadership skills, or college/SAT prep.

Part-time Job

Having part-time employment demonstrates that a student has a good work ethic and is learning how to work with others, take initiative, manage their time, and adapt to new processes. Having the experience of being responsible is a valuable life lesson. In addition, the money your teen earns provides them the opportunity to practice managing their own finances before they move out on their own.

College Summer Programs

Attending a college’s summer program can be a great way to do some career exploration if your teen is interested in a particular major or field of study. This is incredibly valuable, even if it only tells your teen what they do NOT want to pursue as a career. Narrowing down your teen’s interests is a great outcome to a summer. In addition to trying out a particular interest, a summer college program can show your teen what college life is like. Your teen will likely get to eat in the campus cafeteria, tour the facilities, and meet with faculty.

These types of programs can be anywhere from a three-day to a month long stay, with some even designed for daily commuters. Check the websites for colleges and universities in your area.


Having a summer internship can help your teen get hands-on experience in the real world. Young people are often not aware of all of the different types of careers available to them or what types of skills each career needs. Summer internships for high school students are designed to help them figure out what direction they want to take in life. This can be very valuable feedback to a teen as they try to determine where they should apply for college. Additionally, they will develop new skills, learn proper employment etiquette, and develop a network of professionals to call on in the future.

Most teen internships require that students be at least 16 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school. Some are paid, but most are not. You can visit internships.com to learn more or have your teen discuss this option with their school guidance counselor.

Study Abroad

For the adventurous, your teen could study abroad over the summer. One option is to take an immersion language program, where your teen would reside in another country to learn a foreign language. Some programs house teens in dorms at foreign universities, while others place teens in homes with host families. Just Google “teen language program” and you will find lots of options. Another option is getting involved with a service program that takes a group of students to an impoverished area in a third world country to volunteer. The projects could include remodeling living quarters, teaching, constructing a school, working with underprivileged children, caring for animals, or pursuing environmental projects. Either way, studying abroad will expose your teen to different cultures and new things, all of which is appreciated by colleges and employers.

Take a Class

Check out your local YMCA and newspapers to see what sports programs or fitness programs are going on over the summer. Exercise is great for kids of all ages and you may find a sport in which your teen is interested. Visit your local parks and recreation department to see what classes are being offered for teens. Your child may learn a new skill or hone in on a hobby. Consider drama, martial arts, art, cooking, sewing, music lessons, or other ventures. You might even find a leadership program, which would provide your teen some valuable skills for their future.

Community Service

Volunteering can be a great way to spend the summer. Serving the community provides youth with so many benefits, such as instilling a good work ethic, developing a sense of purpose and self-confidence, providing new perspective on life and gratitude for what you have, and offering hands-on experience in the real world. Both colleges and future employers love to see community service on a resume because it shows growth, skill development, responsibility, and a willingness to contribute to a better quality of life. Local options include animal shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, hospitals, churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens or doing yard work for an elderly neighbor.

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