Ruth McGhee, Director of University Counselling

A change in the weather always prompts us to think about sunny summer days and what to do when July and August roll around to make the most of vacation time. For high school students looking to expand their extracurricular activities or work ahead on university planning this summer, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of the time off. Students and families will have to get creative again this year; while some traditional summer activities will run in person, chances are not all options will be available for summer programming.

A quick trip around the internet will provide you with myriad resources for how to plan your summer. To help in your search, check out our University Counselling Google site for a list of pre-college summer programs for high school students; you’ll see links to programs in Canada, the US and abroad. All the usual offerings are there, from leadership programs to college courses and more. Some have moved to a virtual platform, which, while it doesn’t mean the content is any less compelling, the experience of being online for extended periods this summer just might not be right for everyone. On the upside, programs that have moved online are more accessible, as you don’t have to travel to get the benefit of the program and its content.

Some students choose to use the summer months to take a high school course, such as a math or social studies class. Perhaps you want to make room for more courses next year in your timetable. If you are interested in doing this, please speak first with your academic advisor to make sure you are on the right track for graduation credits and university prerequisites.

However, if taking a course or participating in a summer program is not for you, consider a few creative local options to expand your skillset and contribute to your community. Some of the usual summer activities - part-time jobs, courses, volunteering - may not be readily available, so I strongly encourage you to take initiative and create your own summer program. Whether you’re in Victoria for the summer, or elsewhere in the world, any one of these ideas can help pass the days of summer with valuable learning and helpful contributions to your community and beyond.

Learn a new skill: Have you ever wanted to learn how to knit or crochet? Cook a meal for yourself or your family? Plant a vegetable garden? Sail or kayak? Get basic lifeguard training? Community recreation centres might provide some local in-person options, or you can connect with local experts in your area to see what learning options are available. Skillshare and YouTube provide thousands of mini-lessons to learn just about anything. I’ve recently enjoyed the Bon Appetit channel on YouTube for all things gourmet. You could try FreeCodeCamp to learn the basics of coding, or learn photography with Kai W. Getting hands-on experience doing something new is great to keep those synapses firing! Who knows? You might end up with a new lifetime passion or hobby.

Teach or lead others: Do you have a skill or talent that you could offer to teach someone else? Do you play an instrument? Do you have athletic skills? Are you a tech whiz? How about offering to teach younger students what you know? Think about something you do well that others could benefit from knowing. Start off getting some experience as a volunteer, which may turn into paid work as you develop expertise and recognition for your abilities and contributions. Maybe you could start your own YouTube channel!

Serve the community: There are many practical ways to meet the needs in your community or region. The pandemic has raised our awareness yet again to some of the more vulnerable members of society. Perhaps it’s as simple as regularly collecting food and supplies for local food banks and homeless shelters. Beach clean-ups and participating in conservation projects can also be practical ways to make a positive impact where you live. Offer to do yard work in your neighbourhood. My best advice is not to do a service activity just once, but make it a regular part of your summer by doing something weekly or bi-weekly. Join with some family members or friends in your bubble to make it a community effort.

Whatever you choose to do this summer, be intentional! Get some rest, have some downtime, enjoy friends and family, all while finding ways to pass the time with meaningful endeavours.