10 things your teen should do this summer instead of work on a tan

June 25, 2010 at 12:15 AM ET

By Katherine Cohen, Ph.D. -- Parents, if you have a teenager who is college-bound, you should know that working on a tan, playing video games or catching up on favorite reality TV shows all summer will not impress an admissions committee! Admission to top colleges is becoming more and more competitive, so it’s important for students to make the most of their time both inside and outside of the classroom. Summers should be looked at as a great opportunity for students to gain new experiences and learn more about themselves. This summer, encourage your college-bound student to pursue a talent or interest. Before you sit down with your teen to discuss how to spend the next few months of summer vacation, consider these 10 great ways college-bound students can prepare for college and spend summer time wisely: 1. Take college-level classes.Enroll your teen at a local college. Often, this allows for deeper exploration of an area of study or provides educational opportunities that are not available at the high school during the academic year — for example, studying marketing, a subject that is not generally covered during high school. Taking a college-level class in a field of interest could help determine what major to pursue in college. In some cases, your teen can even earn credits toward college. 2. Participate in academic or extracurricular programs that span a month or longer.With a little bit of research, you will find there is a summer program for nearly any interest, and several offer scholarships and financial aid. For example, a student interested in music may want to attend the Interlochen High School Singer Songwriter seminar in Michigan. A science-minded student may enjoy University of Pennsylvania’s summer science academy or Sea Semester’s marine studies programs. 3. Travel abroad.If you can afford to send your teen abroad this summer, look into immersive programs that are at least six to eight weeks long. There are opportunities to study at foreign universities that specialize in certain subjects (like studying economics in London or art history in Provence) or volunteer with programs that focus on an area of interest (like doing archaeology in Peru). Your student doesn’t need to study a language, although perfecting a second or third language is indeed a worthwhile pursuit.4. Get a summer job or internship.A summer job or internship can help your teen confirm career aspirations, discover new interests and gain first-hand experience. For example, a student interested in journalism may want to spend the summer at a local newspaper or TV station. Committing at least 20 hours a week to a job or volunteer position will allow your teen to make an impact and take more away from the experience. Ask the high school guidance counselor if the school has any partnerships or recommendations for summer opportunities. A paid summer job allows students to earn money that can be put toward college expenses. Your teen will need spending money to take advantage of certain social activities on and off campus, including eating at a local restaurant, visiting a museum or going to a movie or concert. 5. Join a community service organization.Colleges want to see that students are making an impact in the classroom and also in their local communities. Your teen can volunteer with a community organization that provides an opportunity to make a difference or further an area of interest. For example, a student interested in being a doctor or nurse, may volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home. 6.Continue training in a favorite sport.Get your teen up and active this summer! There’s plenty of time to be spent at the gym, on the track or in the pool. For students who want to play college sports, this is a great way to stay in shape and at the top of their game. 7. Prepare for the next school year. Your teen can make the transition into the next school year easier by doing some of the reading in advance. Obtain a reading list from the high school guidance counselor, or for a list of summer reading recommendations, visit this IvyWise Book Club website. 8.Research colleges. Get online with your teen! Visit college websites, take virtual tours and read articles from school newspapers. 9.Visit college campuses. If your family will be vacationing near college towns this summer, you can easily add a college visit to the itinerary. 10.Prepare for standardized tests. Your teen can maximize down time this summer by reviewing new vocabulary words, common math equations and basic literary themes to get ready for standardized tests. Parents, remember that while it’s important for your teen to have a deep and meaningful summer experience, he or she also should make time to relax and have some fun with friends and family! Katherine Cohen is chief executive officer and founder of IvyWise and