High school is four years of stress. It really is. Four years is a very short time to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row for whatever comes after, be it the workplace, adult relationships, or college. So why leave summer out of your time to prepare?

Incoming Freshmen:

Get involved over the summer. Sports and band both often start early, as do civic clubs, and are a great way to meet your fellow students. It’s also often a possibility to meet with a school counselor and sort of rough out a four-year plan. It’s helpful to start thinking ahead like that, especially since high school is the first time that schools will start expecting you to have input on your education path.

Incoming Sophomores:

A spot of community service would be a good way to fill some time this summer, and will start giving you a taste of career opportunities while you’re still too young to get a job. Volunteer in a senior center or a pet shelter. If you’re involved with a scouting organization, they’d be a great resource to find you somewhere to put in hours.

Incoming Juniors:

Now things are getting serious. Visiting colleges this summer might be a good idea – staff have more time to talk to prospective students in the summer, though there will be fewer staff around. Follow your favorite schools on Facebook too, to get a feel for their atmosphere. Job shadowing and volunteering are still good ideas. Make sure you keep a record of every career-related experience, even a journal. It’s all experience, either for a job application or a college essay. Also watch out for scholarships.

Incoming Seniors:

College applications, scholarship applications. Many won’t be open for submission yet, but you can get the materials to be ready to turn those in the day they are. Getting your application early gives you a much greater shot. Near the end of the summer, start contacting teachers for letters of recommendation. Be ready to hit the ground running come fall.