How Students Should Spend the Summer Before Senior Year

Teens the summer before senior year
With just one summer left before high-school students graduate, parents had ideas for how to best spend that time.

How Students Should Spend the Summer Before Senior Year

Published April 29, 2023

With just one summer left before high-school students graduate, parents had ideas for how to best spend that time.
Teens the summer before senior year

A parent in our Paying for College 101 FB Group recently asked the community what they wished they had done differently in the summer before their student’s senior year. They came through with dozens of ideas, and we included the best of the bunch here for you to enjoy.  

In addition to fun and games, parents in our group said they appreciated letting their students spread their wings a bit before finishing their high school careers. How they defined spreading their wings varied from family to family, but there was definitely a consensus when it came to the themes of equipping students for the future.

Experience a Taste of the College Life

“Any kind of away program where they live in college dorms, or the like, is great for developing independence and life skills,” suggested Carol Coates. “For my son, it was dance intensives, but it could be for sports or whatever they choose.”

Amy Novak had a similar perspective: “Our son did a two-week on-campus, pre-college experience at a university for future science majors, and it was one of the most important things he did last summer,” she said. “He struggled a bit in the beginning with making friends and figuring out how to take care of himself, but by the end of the two weeks, he had learned so much about himself and grew up A LOT! He says that he’s less nervous about going to college because of this experience and is so grateful that he was able to do it.”

Spend Quality Time

Some of the most passionate responses we heard were about making memories with your student while you still can! Parents had many ideas on how to make the moments count.

Holly Pierpont said, “I’ve just been entirely focused on alone time with him. I’ve taken a couple of short trips just with him, and it’s been a gift! Treasure this time!”

“Take a vacay. A fun one,” said Schelly Brosch. “Once they get to college, it’s really hard to coordinate with their schedules, especially if you have younger kids.”

Learn Basic Life Skills

Some parents set more straightforward goals, and many of our community members expressed concern about their students being able to get up in time for early-morning college classes.

“The one thing I wish I would have done is to force my daughter to learn how to wake herself up in the morning,” said one parent. “This is bad to admit, but she still has a hard time getting up at 6:30 am for school, so my husband has to make sure she is waking up.”  

Shannon Martinus recommended having students do more of the day-to-day administrative tasks needed in adulthood. “If they have not already been doing it, have them start making their own doctor, dentist, and hair appointments, as well as handling check-in, paperwork, check-out, and the payment parts of those appointments. Show them how to go online and make an appointment at a clinic if needed when they’re away. Make sure they have their own insurance card in their wallet or know how to access a mobile copy on the phone.”

“We did what I called ‘The Summer of Life Skills’ the summer before senior year,” said Janette Stearns. “Every day, I had my rising senior handle one adult(ish) task around the house, from start to finish – everything from filling the bird feeder to getting the utilities turned back on after I paid the wrong amount and they were shut off.”

Get a Jump-Start on College Admissions

Some students used the time to get a head start on their college applications and have less to worry about later.

Catherine Schronce said, “My son worked full time while also working on stuff for college, such as a high school resume, college applications, and essays. He made his list of seven schools he wanted to apply to and had all his applications, transcripts, and letters of recommendation sent before his first day of senior year.” She also shared that this allowed him to enjoy sports and time with friends while peers were still trying to meet college application deadlines. 

“I wish I had insisted my daughter work on her essays last summer,” one parent said. “It would have saved much stress in September and October!”

Just Breathe

Other parents took a completely hands-off approach to at least part of the summer before senior year. They preferred to let kids be kids, while they still could.

“Just let them ‘be,’ whatever that ‘be’ is, because things may forever change afterward. For example, the college your child gets into may require they attend some program for freshmen the summer before freshman year officially starts,” said Sheila Jones.

Lori Choquette agreed. “I don’t wish my daughter did anything differently. She had a job but also had a ton of fun with her friends. I think it’s so important to have balance!”

How Will You Spend the Summer?

With just a few short months to make it count, parents may be tempted to stuff many activities, trips, and learning opportunities into one season. No matter what you choose to do, be sure your teen has some say in how the time is spent. After all, it’s their last summer as a high school student!

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice we received was from Christine Ascuitto when she said: “Take lots of pictures!” 

They’ll serve as a visual reminder of this special time in all of your lives.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.

Other Articles You Might Like: 

Advice from Parents on Applying and Paying for College

College Planning Checklist for 12th Grade

Summer Programs for High School Students




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