A School Counselor's Summer Advice For Teens

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Summer can be a busy time for high school students. Some are touring colleges, others are taking classes. Lisa Micele, a high school guidance counselor, suggests "How about getting a job at the Dairy Queen?"

While so much emphasis is put on making a student appealing to a university admissions team, Lisa tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson that summer should be about being a kid, too. High school students should be allowed to sleep in, and maybe learn to do their laundry or cook a meal.

And if you think college may not be in your future, Lisa says there are lots of summer programs to help young people re-think the future.

How Teens Should Plan Their Summer

By Lisa Micele

"Reclaim the Joy" and "Everything in Moderation"

Tips for Teens:

When planning your summer, it is important to think about what YOU want to do and accomplish this summer – not what you think might impress others. When you invest time in things you love, your engagement with the activity will be real and genuine. So relax… think about your summer “bucket list” and make time for learning, fun, family, friends, goofing off / sleeping in (within reason), personal engagement and making an impact.

Here are things to keep in mind as you plan your summer:

  1. Summer learning experiences can help you to work on skills essential for next year and college transition. Talk with your teachers for suggestions and enrichment activities. Use the Internet. Things like MOOCs (massive online courses), Khan Academy,, etc. are examples of free resources at your fingertips.
  2. Use your local resources. Local community colleges / universities; park districts; libraries; community centers – these are all great places to tap into.
  3. Reclaim your joy. What do YOU love to do? Things that often get put on the backburner during a busy academic year can now be reclaimed this summer. Read for enjoyment. Take a photography class. Journal / blog. Start playing the piano again. There are no rules here or expectations. When YOU feel connected to something, you will enjoy it more.
  4. Unplug and engage with people. Re-connect with friends, families and mentors. Face to face connections are important. Write thank you notes to people who have helped you throughout the year.
  5. What about a summer job? Or creating your own small business like lawn cutting, dog walking or babysitting? This builds self-reliance and self-confidence. How empowering to manage your own schedule and save some money – right?!
  6. Avoid burnout. Don’t over-schedule yourself. Balance is key
  7. Volunteer in your community. Share your talents and passions with others.
  8. Build those life skills. Learn to cook. Do laundry. Practice good money management / budgeting. If you have an academic passion or career interest, inquire about internships, job shadowing, or auditing a college course. Or consider interviewing someone about his/her job or position.
  9. If you are planning college visits or preparing for standardized tests, again… balance is key. Don’t overschedule yourself – make time for fun while traveling and remember that test preparation should never take over your entire summer.
  10. And finally... Make an impact by letting your interests be your roadmap. When you are true to your authentic self, you will have an awesome summer.


  • Lisa Micele, director of college counseling at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois. She tweets @LisaMicele.

This segment aired on June 17, 2015.

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