For teenagers living in America, almost all in-person summer plans — activities like internships, specialized programs, and summer jobs — have been canceled in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. For students applying to colleges next fall and winter, this is a large problem; many of these activities are a good way to buff up college applications and show applicants' specialties and talents.
However, for many, state lockdowns are a blessing in disguise. The increase in leisure time has shown many teenagers what truly interests them. The shelter-in-place mandate my state has enforced constraints teenagers to their homes. People have been using their newly-established free time in so many healthy and creative ways. Teens my age are learning how to sew, they are expressing themselves creatively and they are exercising more.
As my screen time grows with more time spent at home, I seem to find more opportunities I wouldn't have discovered without the lockdown. Ads for writing internships, different liberal arts programs, and scholarship applications pop up on my social media feeds constantly. An ad on Facebook is actually where I discovered The Teen Magazine.
Many programs are either already based online — such as my writing position at The Teen Magazine — while coordinators of other programs have improvised and switched to an online platform. This obviously does not apply to all activities; summer camps and summer jobs have been completely canceled because they cannot move online.
However, I think students can modify their plans to accommodate the cancellation of various summer activities. Here are some ways to get involved in programs and discover opportunities online over the summer.
Volunteering with Non-Profits
There are many non-profits that offer opportunities online across the nation. Especially now, these organizations need your help to maintain their services. Also, look for local organizations that you can support. Here are some examples of non-profits that run online services you can be a part of.
- Possibly the biggest service non-profit available for teens, DoSomething. They even provide scholarships.
- Notelove is a non-profit based in the Bay Area that provides free music lessons to low-income youth. All you need to teach is to be between the ages of 14 and 18 and have at least two years of experience in playing a musical instrument.
- Another non-profit that allows teens to volunteer online is Interns 4-Good, which is based in Michigan but is available to all teens. This non-profit provides internships and volunteer opportunities that you can access at home.
- Teens in Public Service employs teens who want to serve their communities.
- Volunteer Match is a great platform to explore opportunities online. You can also look for safe, local opportunities.
- Tutorfly allows you to tutor kids, whether it be for volunteer hours or payment.
Another way to impress colleges is to receive scholarships. There are two types of scholarships: those that require essays and those that do not. Scholarships that require essays may ask you to write about a certain topic or explain why you deserve to win the scholarship. Those that do not require essays are typically more of sweepstakes, which means winners are chosen at random, and there is very little you can do to influence your chances of winning.
Scholarships are free for all; anyone can apply for a scholarship regardless of household income. There are scholarships for essentially everyone and every hobby. Some websites that can help you find scholarships are Niche, Going Merry and Scholly. These websites find scholarships that you can apply to, and they link you to the scholarship provider.
Scholarships are great because they help you pay for college and they also look good on college applications. The most famously known scholarship is the PSAT National Merit Scholarship. Only 50,000 students (those whose scores are in the 99th percentile) are eligible for this scholarship every year, so if you win it, you will stand out from other applicants. The qualifications for this scholarship are different in every state. You can find your state's qualifying score here.
I would personally recommend that you record every scholarship you apply to, the reward amount and the deadline in a spreadsheet to help you stay organized. Here is an example:
A passion project, as defined by The Huffington Post, is an activity you participate in as a challenge or for self-fulfillment. Start by brainstorming issues or things you care about and are passionate about. This could be climate change, animal cruelty, eradicating poverty or solving the homeless crisis. Some other things you could be passionate about are the performing arts, STEM or any other school subject.
Now, figure out a way to express your passion to the public. For example, let's say you are passionate about racial injustice. You could start or join an organization that fights for human rights. You could also start a racial injustice awareness club at your school. You could make a website with resources on how to support the Black Lives Matter movement or where to donate to help the movement grow. If you are artistic, you could create paintings that raise awareness to police brutality and have the profits go toward the Bail Project.
Here are some big passion projects that you can start:
- Start an organization/school club
- Create a website that lists resources/spreading awareness for a cause
- Start an online business
- Start a YouTube channel
- Create a portfolio that demonstrates your skills
- If you are an expert at something, teach lessons for a fee or create a YouTube channel where you teach lessons
- Create a service that benefits your community
While these are pretty time-consuming ways to express your passion for an issue, passion projects can be as simple as learning a new skill. In today's day and age, it is incredibly easy to learn new things for free. For example, instead of paying for an American Sign Language course, watch YouTube videos and practice with a friend. If you want to learn how to play guitar, there are plenty of free apps that can help you learn. You can show colleges that you are self-sufficient and that you taught yourself a skill using only the internet.
There is also no need to create a project on your own; engage your friends or people you know in these projects too.
Overall, colleges just want to see that you have goals and passions. While it has been disappointing for many that summer activities have been canceled, there are so many others that you can replace them with that are easily accessible online. Good luck to everyone who is applying to colleges this fall!