The summer before 9th grade is a time of change for any student. Graduating from middle school and preparing for high school can make for exciting and -- simultaneously -- stressful summer months. After all, you did it: you graduated middle school and are off to start a new and more independent chapter of your life, but with that come many unknowns (Will I be able to make new friends? Will I remember any algebra after 2 months off? Will I make the team?) and a new level of responsibility. So how do you balance having a fun-filled, stress-free summer with knowing that you’ll be prepared for 9th grade come September? Here are 5 things every rising 9th grader can try to incorporate into their summer. Summer should be about relaxing and being a kid too, so if you don’t get to all 5 of these suggestions, don’t stress!
1 – Read!
“No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.”
-Mary Wortley Montagu
Exercise your mind this summer and pick up a book! Push your imagination with an action-packed fictional adventure or delve into a historical period with a non-fiction masterpiece. You may even consider reading books you know you’ll read in class in high school!
You could also start reading the newspaper, magazine articles, or websites that appeal to you (on topics you get excited about!)
Being a strong and engaged reader will benefit you in countless ways when freshman year rolls around this fall, throughout high school, and even in college. High school English and history courses require much more weekly reading than in middle school, so work those reading muscles and watch yourself become a faster reader as a result. And that means less time doing homework!
TIP: Here is a list of recommended books for 9th graders (that’s you!).
#2 – Learn Something New
“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.”
-James Cameron, Film Director
Could you use your summer to learn to code or design video games? There are many programs available for your age group, and many are even free or low cost. Have you ever wanted to learn how to solve the Rubik’s cube? I taught myself by watching YouTube videos! What about getting together with friends and shooting a movie (you can use your phone)? There are many free videos online that teach you how to edit videos into a real film. Or take a class!
Learning to code or making your own movie are just two examples in an endless list of things you can learn to do this summer. Start by getting really curious. Take a piece of paper (or notebook) or start a list on a computer or phone. Write down things that you think are really cool that you don’t know how to do. Have you ever seen someone online or on TV and thought, “Whoa, I wish I could do that!” or “I wish I could be like that.” Then break it down into baby steps. You’re not going to be a pro surfer this summer if surfing is new for you. But is there a way you could take a small step towards that dream? It’s ok to try something new and decide later to abandon the dream. The more curious you are and the more things you dare to try, the sooner you’ll find your passions. And those passions will help guide your high school decisions, your college decisions, and beyond.
#3 – Delve Deeper into Something You Love!
“Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”
The famous research psychologist, Anders Ericsson, wrote that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master a skill. If we take the 3 months of summer and remove time for essential activities like eating and sleeping, you probably only have about 1,000 hours to devote to your skill. But hey, you don’t have to go to class or do any homework, so why not delve deep? Whether you pick up a tennis racquet, try stand-up comedy, write short stories, sew your own clothing, learn Photoshop, or make terrazzo crafts, try to see how much you can improve by devoting your time, focus, and curiosity to that particular activity.
It’s fun, rewarding, and confidence-building to watch yourself grow. Following a passion from a young age also has the additional benefit of impressing college admissions boards… even if you decide not to stick to that first passion later on.
#4 – Volunteer Or Get An Internship/Job!
“It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act”
-The Dalai Lama
Volunteering can be a great experience even before starting high school. Start by brainstorming with family or friends about which causes are important to you. each online for which organizations have offices near your home. Volunteering and giving back to your community are important ways to learn about yourself, the world, and how your actions can affect real change. In addition, starting to do things that have a positive impact on your community (or country, or planet) early is great for your future college applications!
In some cities and towns, it’s possible to find jobs and internships as a rising 9th grader. Getting a job has many of the same benefits as volunteering, like self-discovery and even applying some of the skills you learned in school. Working at a local store, market, or office will certainly make use of your math skills and, often, your writing skills as well.
By working or interning, you might get a sense of the types of jobs and tasks that appeal to you and even a sense of which do not. I initially wanted to go to law school, but after working in several law firms as a student, I decided against it. Whether you’re volunteering, interning, or working, do it mindfully. Pay attention to the people around you, how they do their jobs, and think about the skills needed for all the jobs in the organization. Ask as many questions as you can. Do any of the jobs you see excite you? Can you see yourself in any of the roles? It’s fun to dream about the pathway to your dream job. What classes will you need to take and excel in high school to get there?
TIP: This tool can help you locate volunteer opportunities near you!
#5 – Take a Trip!
“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.”
Travel can be remarkably fulfilling and give you perspective on your life. Whether taking a trip to a faraway place or across town, look at it as a new adventure and soak in all the new sites, sounds, and smells. I love visiting areas of my city that are very different from the neighborhood I live in. As a New York City resident, I can walk 15 minutes in a new direction and discover Polish or Korean markets with ingredients and delicacies that are very different from what is typically in my fridge. Are there parts of your town or city that you haven’t explored yet?
If you’re lucky enough to go on a vacation or family trip, ask your parents if it would be possible to visit some college campuses in the area. School tours are probably booked up, but you can do a self-guided tour by first exploring the college’s website and virtual tour. Check out what majors exist at that college. Could you see yourself there for four years? Which honors or AP classes would you have to take in high school to be accepted at this school?
We hope you get into some of these suggestions, that you find them fun, and they help you start (or continue) a lifelong journey of self-discovery and engagement with all the amazing things the world has to offer young adults!