15 Productive Things to Do Over the Summer for High Schoolers

How to have a productive summer
March 25, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 3/25/24

Want to know how to have a productive summer? This guide has got you covered!

Summer is finally here! It’s time to kick back, soak up some sun, and enjoy not having homework, assignments, and early classes. As important as it is for you to relax and recharge for the next year, summer is also the perfect opportunity to engage in productive activities!

And when we say productive, we don’t mean boring! You don’t have to spend your summer trying to get ahead for the next year or expanding your vocabulary by reading dictionaries or textbooks. There are several productive things to do over the summer that can be exciting and enjoyable! Let’s dive into them!

15 Productive Things to Do Over the Summer

If you’re unsure of how to spend your summer, here are 15 ideas to inspire you:

Get a Job

Hoping to get a car next year so you don’t have to keep taking the bus to school? Or maybe you’ve been eyeing those Nikes but just can’t bring yourself to make such a big purchase.

Well, summer is an excellent time to get a job, have some pocket money, and build your professional profile! You can begin gaining hands-on experience in a field that interests you and develop valuable skills like collaboration, organization, time management, and leadership. 


One of the most popular activities students participate in over the summer is volunteering. Whether it's helping out at a local shelter, assisting in environmental conservation efforts, or supporting community events, volunteering can allow you to contribute to causes you're passionate about and gain a real sense of fulfillment. 

Volunteering will also look great on your college applications and can open new doors of opportunity for you!


Summer is the perfect time for high schoolers to pack their bags and embark on exciting adventures. You can explore new cultures, broaden your horizons, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around you. From historical landmarks to breathtaking landscapes, every destination has something unique to offer!

So, pick a destination, pack your bags, and get ready to have some unforgettable experiences!


Reading doesn’t have to be boring to be productive. Choose books you’re genuinely interested in and spend your summer reading as many books as you can! 

Whether you’re into Sherlock Holmes mysteries, the classics, or cheesy romance books, any type of reading can nurture your creativity, sharpen your critical thinking skills, and increase your comprehension. 

Start a Passion Project

Starting a passion project can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. It's a chance to dive into something you're truly passionate about, whether it's writing, art, coding, or any other interest that sparks your creativity. It's about pursuing something just for the love of it, without any pressure or expectations.

It will allow you to explore your talents and spend your summer doing something you love. So, channel your creativity and let your imagination soar!

Explore Hobbies

Summer is the ultimate time to dive into hobbies and explore your passions. Perhaps you already have a hobby that you’d like to develop further, or you’re hoping to pick one up. Now is your time to experiment, learn what you like and dislike, and express yourself!

Try Your Hand at Coding or Programming

With technology playing a crucial role in our lives, coding is a valuable skill that empowers students to create, innovate, and excel in the digital age. It is quickly becoming a crucial skill in various fields, and summer provides the ideal time to begin learning it!

By learning how to code, you can develop your logical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and attention to detail, all while strengthening your professional profile!

Prepare for Standardized Tests

Planning on taking the SAT or ACT soon? With fewer academic commitments and distractions, the summer break offers time and focus to tackle test preparation.

By starting early, you can cover the test content thoroughly, practice test-taking strategies, and identify areas for improvement. You’ll be able to develop a gradual and systematic approach, reducing your stress closer to your test date!

Learn a New Language

Bonjour! Hola! Nǐ hǎo! As you step into summer, consider learning a new language to broaden your horizons, increase your language proficiency, and benefit from being bilingual!

While you likely won’t be able to reach fluency by the end of the summer, you’ll have uninterrupted time to immerse yourself in the language to build a solid foundation to work off of!

Improve Your Financial Literacy

Unfortunately, financial literacy is not taught in schools, but it’s an essential skill to have. So, one of the most productive things to do over the summer is to learn about budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt. 

By gaining financial knowledge, you can make informed decisions about money, set financial goals, and develop responsible spending habits, all of which will benefit you throughout your life!

Learn a New Skill

Ever wish you could paint, copy Gordon Ramsay’s best recipes to the tee, or simply become a better writer? Well, this summer, you can spend your time trying to learn a new skill! You’ll step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and perhaps even discover hidden talents!

Learn How to Play an Instrument

Whether it's picking up the guitar, piano, drums, or any other instrument that resonates with you, the summer break provides the perfect opportunity to dedicate the time and practice needed to learn how to play an instrument.

Playing an instrument will enhance your cognitive abilities, improve your coordination, and boost your memory. It will also nurture your discipline, patience, and perseverance as you work towards mastering the instrument!

Get Involved in Research

Getting involved in research during the summer is an excellent opportunity for you to delve deeper into your academic interests and expand your knowledge. Engaging in research also allows you to gain practical experience, expand your critical thinking skills, and explore your curiosity.

Having research experience under your belt will strengthen your college applications and can help you confirm your career choice!

Check Off Bucket-List Items

From hiking to new heights, experiencing different cultures, or learning new skills, checking off bucket-list items during the summer allows you to discover the incredible possibilities that the world has to offer!

Set Goals for the Upcoming Year

Setting goals can help you prepare for the upcoming year and reduce your stress during the school year. They’ll provide direction, motivation, and a sense of purpose. By setting clear objectives, you can focus your efforts on areas that matter to you, whether it's academics, extracurricular activities, or improving your GPA!

FAQs: How to Have a Productive Summer

For any remaining questions about productive things to do over the summer, read on to find your answers!

1. What Productive Things Can I Do Over the Summer?

There are several productive things you can do over the summer, including: 

  • Getting a job
  • Volunteer
  • Getting involved in research
  • Traveling
  • Reading 
  • Pursuing a passion project
  • Exploring hobbies
  • Learning coding or programming
  • Preparing for your SAT or ACT
  • Learning a new language
  • Improving your financial literacy
  • Learning a new skill
  • Learning how to play an instrument
  • Checking off bucket-list items
  • Setting goals for the upcoming year

The key is to choose activities that align with your interests and goals. Your summer break is a valuable opportunity to invest in personal growth, explore your passions, and prepare for the future!

2. How Can I Make My High School Summer Break Productive?

It's important to strike a balance between relaxation and growth to make your high school summer break productive. Engage in creative pursuits, explore your interests and hobbies, check off your bucket list items, and try to expand your skill set!

3. What Summer Programs Look Best for College?

When it comes to choosing summer programs for college, it's important to consider your interests, goals, and the areas you want to explore or develop further. Typically, the following programs look best on college applications:

  • Academic enrichment programs
  • Research internships
  • Leadership programs
  • Community service programs
  • Entrepreneurial programs
  • Cultural exchange programs
  • Arts programs
  • Career-specific programs

Regardless of what you think will boost your college application, it’s important you choose programs that genuinely excite you and provide opportunities for personal growth and exploration!

4. How Can I Have Fun While Being Productive During the Summer?

Finding the right balance between productivity and fun is key to having a rewarding summer break. Set a schedule that includes dedicated time for both productive activities and leisure. 

By allocating specific time slots for tasks like learning, working on projects, or pursuing hobbies, you can ensure that you make progress while still having time for relaxation and fun activities.

Another strategy is to pursue your passions and incorporate activities you love into your summer routine and the people you love too! For instance, if you plan on reading over the summer, start a book club with your friends!

Final Thoughts

By exploring new hobbies, starting passion projects, and learning practical skills, students can make the most of their summer break. So, embrace the summer with enthusiasm, set goals, enjoy the sun, and make the most of this time to explore, learn, and have fun!

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