Ideas for a Stay-at-Home Summer

Applying to College, Miscellaneous

(We wrote this blog in the Spring of 2020, when teens were figuring out how to spend their summer with the restrictions of social distancing. Although Covid is no longer limiting our activities, we have opted to keep this blog posted, since it offers a wealth of ideas that are still worth considering!)

As June approaches, students around the world are considering their summer plans. But in 2020, many of the usual summer jobs and family vacations won’t be possible due to social-distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions. So how should a college-bound teen spend their summer in the time of COVID-19?

In spite of restrictions on usual life, it’s still important for high school students to spend the summer in a purposeful way. What a person does during a time of upheaval speaks volumes about their character and potential. The applicants who did something engaging and meaningful in Summer of 2020 will be the ones to stand out on college applications.

This being said, your goal should NOT be to do something just to look good for colleges! Instead, focus on following your interests and deepening your life experience. As you sort through options, don’t think about which one will impress admissions officers most. Think about what excites YOU the most. This is the activity you are most likely to follow through with, and what will most likely get admissions officers excited too.

We have created a list of ideas for teens living in states that are facing a socially-distant or stay-at-home summer. This is by no means an exhaustive list of possibilities – if nothing here resonates with you, we hope these ideas can inspire to find something else that does.


  • For-Credit College Classes: Many summer programs will be offered virtually this summer – check out your local community college or consider a university summer school that welcomes high school students. In addition to studying a topic of interest, this will boost your GPA and show admissions officers your ability to handle college-level academics. Below are a few that have already confirmed they will be offered online – there are many more as well!
  • Non-Credit College Classes: Take an online course through platforms like CourseraedX, MIT Open Courseware and MOOC. These offer thousands of courses, although most are not credit-bearing, many are free, and they are a great way to keep your brain engaged and explore something that fascinates you.
  • High School Classes: Take a high school class through programs like Fusion Academy, UC Scout or BYU Online High School. This is an ideal way to get ahead in a subject area or supplement what is offered by your high school while adding another course to your transcript and GPA.
  • Learn a new language through an online learning platforms like Language Bird, BabbelRosetta Stone or DuoLingo or find native speakers who will teach you their language and culture through sites like Verbling.
  • Explore a fascinating topic through OutSchool.
  • Go the DIY Route: Do extensive research to become a subject matter expert in any area that interests you.
  • Use one of the many platforms to delve into your family background and supplement your online research with interviews with family members and friends to learn about your family history. Create a film or book to share your results.
  • Contact professors at universities offering your services as a remote intern or research assistant.
  • Engage in professor-mentored research entirely from home. Pioneer Academics and Horizon Academics both offer high school students the opportunity to do research virtually while earning college credit.


  • Start a Blog to express your thoughts while showcasing your writing skills.
  • Write a screenplay, novel or cookbook and see if you can get your work produced.
  • Start a newsletter for your school club, neighborhood, church or sports team.
  • Start a pen pal campaign with students from a school in another country or geographic region.
  • Enter online contests, such as the Americanism Essay Contest which awards a prize for a winning essay.
  • Write for the local newspaper or submit opinion pieces about current events.

ARTISTS (Visual, Performing and Musical)

  • Create a photojournalism project to highlight your creativity or document life during COVID-19.
  • Develop a virtual team to compete in the Vans Custom Culture for the chance to win $50,000 for your school’s art program.
  • Doodle for Google: Submit a design to Google for a chance to have your design featured as the Google search engine logo.
  • Create a virtual open mic night for local performing artists to express themselves.
  • Share your own music, dance or drama for audiences through an online platform like Tik Tok, Facebook Live or You Tube.
  • Pick up the instrument you stopped learning when high school got busy and learn to play the songs that inspire you most.
  • Create an Etsy, Ebay or Amazon Shop to sell your artwork, unused items or, virtually, anything.


  • Help your family during this difficult time. Babysit your younger sister, help your brother with his math homework. Plant a garden in the backyard. Do laundry, clean, mow the lawn – anything to support your family, who may be more stressed than you realize right now.
  • Find hundreds of local + virtual community service opportunities through Volunteer Match.
  • Contact organizations you have worked for in the past. Ask if they need help with anything that you can do from home. Many non-profits would welcome help with things like website development, creating new materials and fundraising.
  • Volunteer to be a counselor for a crisis hotline.
  • Spearhead a trash pickup effort in a neglected part of your city.
  • Help students around the world learn English through a company like VipKid.
  • Build a community garden.
  • Bring home-cooked meals, sandwiches, fruit, or any useful items to unhoused people living in your community.
  • Offer to help your neighbors in need: a trip to the grocery store, picking up food, walking dogs, yard work, etc.


  • Most business won’t be able to take summer interns but would benefit from outsourcing research and analysis. Identify businesses or non-profits that would benefit from your data mining and critical thinking skills.
  • Develop a YouTube channel to share a talent, deliver a tutorial or share a topic of interest.
  • Start a business in your neighborhood walking dogs, mowing lawns, cleaning pools, or other tasks.
  • Raise money for an organization that is meaningful to you by launching an online fundraiser.
  • Help a small business or non-profit organization develop their marketing materials or social media presence.
  • Offer to virtually tutor or “babysit” neighborhood kids.


  • Contact your local Democratic or Republican campaign offices regarding contributions you can make from home, such as stuffing mailers, calling voters or creating a “virtual” campaign.
  • Volunteer to help with the campaign of a local, state or national candidate whose goals you support.
  • Lead an voter registration drive to help turn out the vote in upcoming elections.


  • Train to run a 10k, a marathon, or even compete in a triathlon.
  • Perfect your dance technique. Many dance studios are offering online classes.
  • Practice Yoga, QiGong, Tai Chi or Pilates.
  • Weight train.

GET READY FOR COLLEGE APPS (We will be doing this with our students all summer!)

  • Study for the SAT or ACT. Offer to coach your peers if you have already earned a high score and don’t need to test again.
  • Extensively research the colleges you are considering applying to, as a supplement for a campus visit.
  • Email the regional admission officers of the colleges you are considering applying, to introduce yourself and ask some thoughtful questions.
  • Connect with all your colleges on social media and attend any virtual events they hold for prospective students.
  • Draft your Common App Personal Essay and UC Personal Insight questions.
  • Create a professionally formatted college resume.
  • Practice interview skills to prepare for college interviews in the Fall.
  • Do deep research on the majors that interest you, to be more confident in your choices on the applications. This will also help you be more persuasive in the essays that ask you to discuss your major.
  • Interview professionals in various industries and jobs. Use what you learn to inform your own choice of majors on college applications.

Having trouble deciding between so many options? Feel free to reach out – our consultants can help teens be strategic in planning their summer and identifying options that foster their passions and leverage their strengths, while also taking into consideration time and budget!