Planning a Productive Summer During a Pandemic

Nate G.
Nate G.

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It’s almost summertime! After an unprecedented year in a global pandemic and being stuck at home, I’m sure many of you are eager to just sleep in, soak in the warm sunshine, and relax! At the same time, you might be wondering, what can I do over the summer in the middle of a pandemic to stay competitive for college admissions? Planning a productive summer during a pandemic sounds like a challenge. Despite traditional summer activities mostly still on hold because of COVID-19, here are our tips and tricks for having a fun, productive, and standout summer!

Take an Online Course

Taking an online course is a fantastic way to supplement your education with something that genuinely interests you. Most colleges offer online summer session courses that you can actually take for college credit and get a grade for. These classes do tend to be pricey, but if finances aren’t an issue, consider even taking a couple of online courses over the summer at your target university. 

Taking an online course will not only demonstrate an interest in a particular university, but it’ll also show that you as a high school student, were able to handle the rigor of collegiate level academics. Your fellow classmates in summer sessions will likely be actual students at the university, further demonstrating your ability to excel academically among college students. Select programs will offer very limited scholarships for students with a demonstrated financial need. Each program has a different policy for aiding high school students.

Several popular summer programs include: 

For others who don’t want to shell out several thousand dollars for college courses, a more affordable option might be edX or Coursera. In recent years, colleges have been building up a massive catalog of courses on these highly popular online platforms. Coursera permits free audits of their courses, which typically only include lecture videos. However, for a $39/month fee, students will be granted access to the courses’ quizzes, exams, and homework, as well as a verified certificate proving completion of the course. Similar to Coursera, edX also offers free lecture audits, but has fees between $50 – $300 per course if you’re seeking a verified certification afterward.

Remote Jobs or Internships for Students

Another highly productive way to spend a summer is to take on a remote job or internship. Although most internships do tend to be for college students, work opportunities for high school students do exist! Empowerly has a high school internship matching program. If you’re looking for support for a productive summer during the pandemic, Empowerly has a range of services to help.

Beyond that, I’d highly recommend checking out the Chegg Internship Portal or Intern 4 Good Portal for the remaining 2021 high school summer opportunities! Internship roles range from marketing to business to computer science. Other fantastic general job boards include Linkedin Jobs or Indeed. A quick browse of “high school jobs” within these websites will net hundreds of companies actively looking for high school students like you! Do remember that since work for high school students is already rare to come by, it’s important to apply as soon as you see something that even remotely interests you!

Preparing for College Applications

If you’re looking for productive summer work during a pandemic, you can always pay it forward to yourself. For rising seniors, it doesn’t hurt to begin the college application early! Some schools may not necessarily open their applications that early in the summer. However, most colleges do reuse the same essay prompt year after year. Even if it means beginning the outline of your application essays over the summer, it’s a fantastic way to get ahead! For super ambitious rising juniors, it may not hurt to start thinking about your essays too!

If you’re interested in expert college application guidance, book a free consult today! Our Empowerly Counselors have extensive experience helping students prepare their essays and applications for top-tier universities. Some of our counselors even served as former admission officers at Stanford, UChicago, and UPenn!

Studying for SAT or ACT

Many students haven’t taken the SATs/ACTs and might’ve had some difficulty finding dedicated time to study during the school year. Summer is the perfect time to prep for those standardized exams. Due to the pandemic, most schools didn’t require SATs/ACTs for the 2021 admissions process. However, for most universities, the standardized test will likely be reinstated for subsequent years post-pandemic. This is our finding at the time this blog was written. However, we’d encourage you to closely monitor your target schools’ standardized exam policies and make the best judgment for your college application story. 

Nevertheless, it never hurts to take the SATs/ACTs even if they aren’t required. A solid score can definitely help you stand out compared to other applicants that may not have submitted a score. 

Launch a Personal Project, Startup, Non-Profit

Colleges love to see demonstrated passion and interest in a particular area. It not only demonstrates initiative, but also leadership in doing something different. One example is an aspiring computer science major launching a startup for an app they built in computer science class. Perhaps, someone who cares about social justice and creates a nonprofit to drive awareness and raise funds for the issue. The list of ideas is endless, but demonstrating initiative and dedicating yourself to something that means a lot to you would be a challenging, yet fun way to spend your summer.

Kevin Systrom, the co-founder of Instagram once said,

“If you’ve got an idea, start today. There’s no better time than now to get going. That doesn’t mean quit your job and jump into your idea 100% from day one, but there’s always small progress that can be made to start the movement.”

Kevin is absolutely right. There truly is no such thing as “too young” to start a business, a non-profit, or pursue something that truly means something to you. Even if you’re a  high school freshman, if you’ve got an idea, why not start today and use the summer to continue building upon it? 


Navigating the college admissions process can be confusing and difficult. If you have any remaining questions or are interested in learning more about college counseling, book a free consult today! From planning your most productive summer during a pandemic, to jump-starting on those college applications, Empowerly can help.

Questions? Let us know!