Throughout the academic year, high school and college students alike look forward to one key date, a date that is probably circled on their calendars: the beginning of summer vacation. This “break” marks an opportunity for a much needed time of rest and relaxation. Throughout the year, summer break has served as the motivating factor for late night study sessions, all night paper writing, and one’s willingness to bring oneself to the brink of academic burnout.  Yet, in seeing summer break as primarily a time for recharging one’s batteries, many students do not see the enormous opportunity that summer vacation presents for their future collegiate funding. Summer break provides time not normally available during the academic year for activities such as employment, volunteer work, additional academic preparation, and personal growth. Yet, to make this suggestion to high school and college students alike brings with it the sounds of weeping and a gnashing of teeth. In the final blog of this series, I demonstrate how students can take advantage of this available time to strengthen their scholarship application, while having plenty of time available for time with friends, travel, and the coveted ten hour slumber.

High School Student:

The average high school student is on campus for seven hours per day and usually spends two hours or more on homework per evening. Add to that the usual commitment of five to ten hours over the weekend and students are already accustomed to allocating fifty to fifty-five hours per week on school related activities. With the school and homework time commitment out of the picture for a few months, it is time to reallocate your time and effort to some new endeavors that have an important end goal: a debt-free degree.

So, with an additional fifty plus hours per week available to you, the question you need to answer for yourself is how do you allocate your time appropriately? You can focus on your future, while still maintaining time to enjoy your summer by spending time with friends and recharging for the upcoming year. While there is no cookie-cutter answer to time management, my suggested allocation is based on the average student, who either needs to or desires to work and recognizes the need for a substantial time commitment to college admissions preparation. Such an individual should focus on work, growth, and if possible volunteering.

Assuming you are able to be scheduled for twenty-five to twenty-nine hours per week, you still have twenty-one, to twenty-five hours per week available for other opportunities. Of your remaining hours, I would look at allocating fifteen to twenty hours per week toward personal growth, the majority of which should be focused on ACT or SAT preparation. While this may sound excessive and boring when compared to the possibility of working for extra cash or enjoying time with friends, spending one hundred and fifty to two hundred hours over the summer preparing for these exams could be the difference between no internal scholarships and a partial to full ride. Depending on the school, this could range from $50,000 to $100,000 in awards over a four-year timespan. Any remaining time could then be allocated towards volunteer work or personal growth opportunities. I have no doubt that some of you reading this think I am crazy and you are wondering where time to recharge and spend time with friends can be found.

While it seems like I have allocated every free moment of your time from the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go to bed, remember that it just seems this is the case. In reality, I am not allocating any additional hours than are already in your school schedule. So the question you have to ask yourself is, how are you budgeting your time for extra-curriculars now? Each week has one hundred and sixty-eight hours. I am suggesting you spend fifty-five hours per week on your future, leaving you one hundred and thirteen hours per week or sixty-seven percent of your remaining week for you time. If you want to sleep ten hours per day to recharge, great; you still have forty-three hours per week for other non-future related activities. As you can see, there is plenty of time over the summer to accomplish all of these goals; the key is proper time management.

College Student:

While the summers of high school are meant to prepare students for college, the summers of college are the means by which you prepare yourself for your future career. Since most students do not plan to go on to graduate work, students should focus their attention on finding jobs that will give them experience in their industry of interest. Here, students are looking for internships, where one gains not only valuable experience, but establishes a relationship with a potential future employer. Internships operate differently than a typical summer job, allowing student employees to work forty hours per week or more in a field of interest. In addition to gaining valuable experience, the summer provides opportunities to take additional coursework toward your degree program. Transferring in coursework from a less expensive institution can minimize your overall cost of attendance while shortening the duration of your program. It would not be unreasonable to take six to twelve hours the summers between your freshman and sophomore years. Even if you took classes from your current institution, you could shorten your program by up to one academic year, leaving ample time for a yearlong internship opportunity, a study abroad program, or an early graduation.

If you are a college student, who finds yourself looking to pursue graduate work, you should follow a schedule similar to that of the high school student, with one exception. Some graduate programs (medical doctors) prioritize volunteer work over income producing work in the admissions process. If you fall into this category, consider making volunteer work your main priority and keeping your graduate exam preparation in the secondary position.