Crush Your Summer Break!

Always wanted to learn the ukulele or start your side-hustle as a social media pro? Soon you can’t use school as an excuse. Here’s how to reach your goal before back-to-school (and still sleep in).

You’re almost there—Three! Whole! Months! with no tests, no homework, no 7:30 a.m. bio lab. Maybe you’ve got your summer all mapped out—camp, a job, a family trip—or maybe your only plan is Netflix, your sofa, and ample A/C. Just remember, it takes just a few weeks of inactivity for a summer of bliss to turn into a summer of blah.

So if you really want to make the most of your time off, pick one thing to accomplish before you head back to school. Easier said than done? We hear you—figuring out what to do and how to do it can feel overwhelming, especially if you have your heart set on a lofty (but vague) aspiration like saving money. That’s why we enlisted three teens to share their ambitions for the summer, then asked the experts for advice on turning those dreams into reality.

The takeaway? Be realistic, do your research, and break down your goal into manageable steps, and you’ll achieve amazing things. Read on to find out how.

"I want to volunteer more this summer. It feels really rewarding to give back to others."

- India, 16, Ashburn, VA

STEP 1: Get Real: Wanting to give back is totally admirable. But to turn your good intentions into decisive action, you first need to focus your goal, says Amy Meuers, CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council. She suggests you make two lists: On one, write skills that could make you an extra-valuable helper. Are you a social media pro? Have a thing for spreadsheets? Do you speak a second language? Next, list causes you’re passionate about: climate change? youth literacy? animal welfare? You’re more likely to stick to a goal if it has intrinsic value to you.

STEP 2: Get Organized: Once you’ve narrowed your options to one or two causes, research organizations to see which ones could most use your skills. Many nonprofits have info specifically for students on their websites. Or check out or to search for opportunities.

STEP 3: Get Motivated: Commit to a certain number of hours each week—even just one!—or a total number of hours by the end of the summer. Set mini-goals along the way to keep yourself motivated, like having volunteered 10 hours by the Fourth of July.

"I want to get stronger so I can feel confident when I’m hiking, rock climbing, rafting, and kayaking."

- Ethan, 13, Newton, MA

STEP 1: Get Real: You’re determined not to spend the summer glued to your beanbag chair, and that’s a great start. But if you want to see measurable improvement in your overall fitness, you need to define your goal. Do you want to be able to do 50 push-ups by the end of the summer? Run a 10-minute mile?

STEP 2: Get Organized: “To be fit, you have to be active,” says Anthony Wall, an American Council on Exercise youth fitness specialist. Make time for exercise every day—ideally an hour or more. But you don’t need to join a fancy gym to work up a sweat. Have a dance party in your bedroom, ride your bike over to a friend’s house, or take the steps instead of an elevator.

STEP 3: Get Motivated: To keep your willpower strong, set mini fitness goals for yourself all summer long. For example, you could sign up for a midsummer 5k race, or a swim-a-thon at your local pool. Or enlist a friend as a workout buddy and challenge them to a squats competition at the end of the summer!

"I got a job at a camp this summer, and I’m excited to be getting a paycheck. I want to put money away for college."

- Amanda, 17, Chicago, IL

STEP 1: Get Real: Saving money is one of those things we all want to start doing . . . just as soon as we splurge on one last Frappuccino. To make this super elusive goal stick, you need to put a specific dollar value on it. Make a pact with yourself: “I vow to save (blank) amount by (blank) date to spend on (blank).” Be realistic about what goes in each blank—aiming to save thousands of dollars in a few months for a new car will only set you up for failure.

STEP 2: Get Organized: Once you figure out how much you’ll be saving each week, you need to find a place to put it. A bank account that earns interest is a great idea. If you want to really see your account grow, consider asking an adult to contribute to, or even match, your savings, says Susan Beacham, co-founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation.

STEP 3: Get Motivated: To stay on track, reward yourself every time you make incremental progress: For example, treat yourself to that Frappuccino (with extra whip!) once you’ve saved half your goal amount or after you’ve consistently put money away for four weeks in a row.

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