Summer Break for Teens: How to Make the Most of Summer Vacation
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Summer Break for Teens: How to Make the Most of Summer Vacation

Summer break for teens is one of the most anticipated times of the year. Other than maybe Christmas, that is. Warm weather, abundant air conditioning and unstructured days promise fun and freedom. While summer is the perfect time to hang out with friends and unwind after the school year, it’s also an opportunity to learn new skills without the pressure of schoolwork.

Most teens can make the most of their time all summer long by working, volunteering, playing sports, traveling, starting a teen club, or picking up a creative hobby. There are tons of fun ways teens can keep learning during the summer.

When younger teens continue to learn over the summer, they minimize summer learning loss. Summer learning loss happens when students drown in screen time and lose academic steam over the summer and, consequently, forget some of what they learned in the previous school year. For example, researchers found that on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation, especially in math.

Another study found that students lose between 25% and 30% of their school-year learning over the summer. High school students, in particular, need to be ready to transition back into the school year to tackle difficult assignments and complete college applications.

If you’re worried about summer learning loss as a teen or parent, have no fear. In this post, we’ll explore what teens can do during the summer to prepare for their future while still enjoying their break.

Ways Teens Can Make the Most of Summer Vacation

Here are some ways teens can keep busy and continue growing over the summer. Parents can get involved in many of these activities to enjoy spending time with their teen. As you’ll see, there’s a memorable experience to suit every personality.

1. Get a Summer Job or Internship

A summer job or internship is a great way to learn important skills teens can use throughout their lives. For example, they might learn customer service skills on the job or gain experience working with people from diverse backgrounds. Most jobs require reading comprehension or writing skills to keep these abilities strong. Jobs or internships also help teens develop self-confidence and prepare for college.

A summer job or internship can help you learn customer service skills or gain valuable experience

Teens can start thinking about their interests and strengths that could help them choose a career path they’ll enjoy. For example, if you love to read, you might consider applying to work in a bookstore. Maybe there’s something you know you want to study in college. If so, see if you can find work in that field. For instance, if you want to be a veterinarian, consider working at an animal shelter over the summer. If you want to be an agronomist, volunteer at a local park.

If you can’t find the perfect job or internship, consider trying something that offers some aspects you like. You might discover or develop a skill you never knew you had.

Parents can help teens find jobs by asking friends, family members, or trusted neighbors if they need a helping hand over the summer.

2. Volunteer for Local Community Organizations

Volunteering is an excellent way to build your résumé, gain experience, make new friends, and make an impact in your community. Volunteer work can also make a college application stand out. You can find volunteer opportunities online or through your local community center, hospitals, schools, libraries, or environmental organizations.

Parents can help by encouraging their teens to get involved. They might even consider volunteering with their teen so they can spend time together while contributing to the community.

Ways to Make a Difference in Your Community

Looking for volunteer ideas? Here are a few ways older teens can make a real impact:

  • Volunteer at a nursing home to help keep residents company.
  • Prepare and serve food through a local charity.
  • Volunteer at a hospital or soup kitchen to help serve patients, families, and visitors.
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter to help care for abandoned animals.
  • Lend a hand at a food bank.
  • Host a volunteer car wash
  • Read to little kids at your local library
  • Volunteer at a library to help organize events or read to children.

3. Volunteer Abroad to Help Communities in Need

Teens who love adventure and learning about new cultures can volunteer abroad. When teens volunteer abroad, they’re introduced to other parts of the world, experience new cultures, and expand their minds. They learn a lot about life, resilience, and the way the world works.

How to Make a Real Impact on Your Volunteer Trip

One way to make a real impact while volunteering abroad is to choose a volunteer program that promotes self-sufficiency so community members could continue the project when volunteers leave. At Rustic Pathways, we offer programs that take student travelers across the globe to communities and national parks to participate in meaningful service projects with our community partners.

For example, Life in the Bateyes allows students to help with home construction projects that provide dignified housing for communities of sugarcane workers in the Dominican Republic. Students on the program work alongside local masons, engineers, and community members on the housing projects and see the impact of their efforts firsthand.

Students helping build vital buildings for the local communities in the Dominican Republic.

Does Volunteering Abroad Look Good on College Applications?

Volunteering abroad looks good on college application and makes them stand out from the rest. Serve at a national park, write letters to other teens in Costa Rica to teach English or volunteer at a Head Start.

Colleges look for students with diverse qualities and skills. When a teen travels and volunteers abroad, it can demonstrate they’re a well-rounded person who’s passionate, motivated, and capable of stepping out of their comfort zone.

Volunteer work also fosters important skills, habits, and mindsets including independence, self-awareness, and empathy—sure to impress a college admissions officer.

4. Pick up a New Hobby or Learn a Skill

Summer provides time to explore new hobbies or skills. There are plenty of reasons to learn something unfamiliar and interesting. For example, trying out a new hobby is a great way to get into the zone and relieve stress. Hobbies can also help you meet new people who share similar interests. You might learn how to play a musical instrument, bake, or start a blog. You can have fun trying any hobby that interests you or gets your creativity flowing.

Parents can get involved and learn a hobby with their teen. They may start a garden or plan a family vacation together so the teen can practice budgeting, communication, and time management skills.

5. Practice or Learn a New Language

Teens can boost their brain power over the summer by learning or practicing a new language. There are many benefits to learning a new language, such as:

  • Improves analytical skills
  • Boosts creativity
  • Builds problem-solving skills
  • Enhances job opportunities
  • Improves math and English skills
  • Increases appreciation and respect for different cultures
  • Makes international travel easier
  • Increases flexibility and tolerance
  • Leads to an appreciation of cultural diversity

Here are a few tips for learning a new language over summer break:

  • Speak the language out loud and don’t be afraid to mispronounce words.
  • Learn practical phrases first to communicate basic needs.
  • Interact with the language every day by listening to others speak it.
  • Use free online learning tools to practice.
  • Immerse yourself in the language by visiting the country of native speakers.

Do Colleges Want Four Years of a Foreign Language?

Although requirements vary between schools, colleges generally want students to have at least two years of a foreign language in high school. Some colleges recommend that students study three or four years of a foreign language before applying. Either way, learning a new language beyond the requirement can strengthen a college application.

Are You Ever Too Old to Learn a New Language?

You’re never too old to learn a new language. Language development can happen any age however, the earlier you start, the better! Parents might practice language skills with their teen over the summer and enjoy the benefits together.

6. Exercise or Play a Sport

Teens might be tempted to watch more Netflix once school is out. Even though it’s good to have some downtime, it’s also essential to maintain healthy habits over the summer. The warm summer weather is the perfect setting to engage in a range of fun and challenging activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends teens get 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity a day. Teens can get the exercise they need by playing a sport like basketball, soccer, or lacrosse.

Teens who don’t enjoy sports might like biking, swimming, dancing, or hiking. There are tons of ways to get exercise and boost physical and mental health. Parents might encourage their teen to be active every day by planning family activities that include exercise like hiking or taking a fitness class together.

7. Travel Abroad

If you love adventure, summer is a great time to explore and travel to a new place. When you travel abroad, you have a life-changing experience that helps you grow as a person.

The Benefits of Traveling Abroad

Some benefits of traveling abroad include:

  • Helps you identify interests and passions: While traveling, you will learn more about your interests and passions. This will help you make better decisions about what you want to study in college or pursue professionally.
  • Helps you gain a global perspective: When you explore another culture, you gain an understanding of your place in the world and how your choices affect others. This can help you become a future leader and a creative problem solver.
  • Helps you practice cultural sensitivity: When you travel abroad, you get to converse with locals, practice a new language, try new foods, and learn about cultural practices. You’ll learn how to work with others from different backgrounds in a peaceful, productive way.
  • Helps you develop skills: Traveling gives you the chance to build important lifelong skills like independence, empathy, and self-awareness. The skills you develop while traveling will help you succeed academically and professionally.

Teen travelers teaching English to a class in Tanzania

Where Should You Go for a Summer Adventure?

No matter what you love, you can find an adventure that fits your personality and goals. At Rustic Pathways, we offer a wide variety of programs to help students learn, grow, and develop skills. For example, we take students to locations in Costa Rica to help save endangered sea turtles, plan and run a summer camp, or practice speaking Spanish through cultural immersion.

We also offer amazing programs for adrenaline junkies or animal lovers looking for unique trip ideas.

Benefits of Continuing to Learn New Things Outside the Classroom

Although school teaches essential skills like reading, writing, and math, there’s plenty to learn outside of the classroom. When teens learn real-world skills like how to interact with others or solve unfamiliar problems, they prepare for college and work beyond school. Learning new skills is also excellent for the brain.

According to a study published in Psychological Science, learning new skills enhances memory function. It also strengthens connections between parts of the brain. Here are a couple more reasons to keep learning over the summer.

1. Summer Activities That Can Help Teens Get Into College

College admissions officers want to see students do well in school and continue learning and growing over the summer. Summer activities can boost a teen’s college application, especially if they engage in activities that are interesting, creative, and show effort in exploring different careers. Here are some summer activities teens can do to set themselves apart:

  • Summer activities that can help students get into collegeJoin a specialized program for high school students: High school students might consider participating in a program held on a college campus. Colleges all over the country offer opportunities for high school students to learn new skills in areas that interest them, from practicing public speaking to exploring a career in law.
  • Work in research: Students can impress admissions officers by getting involved with college research. High school students can contact professors or ask parents to talk with university connections to find out if they can work in a lab. Any research experience looks great on a college application.
  • Take an online course: Teens can sign up for a free online college course to learn about a range of subjects or participate in lectures.
  • Get a job: Colleges love to see students who have work experience. Working shows responsibility, maturity, and initiative.
  • Volunteer: Colleges are impressed by students who are committed to community service. Just two hours a week of volunteer work can make an applicant stand out. Colleges look for qualities like independence, responsibility, and commitment, which students demonstrate when they help others.

2. Summer Learning Can Inspire Future Career Aspirations

You know the saying, “You never know until you try“? Teens might feel overwhelmed by options when it comes to choosing a career path, but summer can help them discover new passions and narrow their choices.

When teens explore skills beyond the classroom, they learn more about the world and how to apply their talents and abilities. They might discover they want to study medicine, for example, by volunteering at a hospital. Or maybe older kids will realize they want to be a language teacher after traveling abroad. Summer is a chance to explore interests and reevaluate goals before the school year starts again.

Parents can help their teens access their options by visiting colleges together or arranging job shadowing to learn more about a career that interests them.

Explore and Learn Over the Summer With Rustic Pathways

It’s important to relax and have fun with friends during summer break. Teens can travel to have fun and learn at the same time.

At Rustic Pathways, we offer life-changing experiences that combine education, travel, and community service all in one. We dozens of programs in 18 countries where students can learn new languages, build new skills, connect with people from around the globe, volunteer to help communities, and more.

With over 40 years of experience, we are the leader in international student travel, and we always put health and safety first. Teens can have life-changing travel experiences while parents enjoy peace of mind.

Contact Rustic Pathways to learn more about our student travel programs for teens.

About the Author

Jack Weinstein

Content Production Manager

Jack has spent his professional career as a writer and editor. Before joining Rustic, he worked as a journalist in Kansas and Colorado, taught English in Swaziland, and transitioned to marketing roles in the Boston and New York startup worlds. Jack is excited to channel his love of storytelling and his appreciation for education as Rustic’s Content Production Manager. When not working, Jack is either watching baseball or planning his next adventure. Jack and his wife, Blythe, live in Brooklyn.