Your Post-Grad, Pre-College Summer Bucket List

So you’ve walked down the stage, shaken hands with the school principal, and received your diploma. You’ve made it through high school and can celebrate all of your hard work over the last four years. You can’t help but think of the sweet freedom that lies ahead for the next couple of months before your fall semester starts. Then again, it also feels like there’s so much to do before you head off to school and your to-do list is already stressing you out.

Well, fret not my friend. You need to make this last summer before college a special one, so I decided to help you out by compiling a list of 30 things to make this your best summer yet. Why 30? I guess ‘cause that was Jesus’ age when He began his public ministry. It was a big moment in His life and you’re about to enter a special time of your life as well. So, here are some ideas for a summer that’s enriching and fully alive. (P.S. these are things you can do even if you’re not heading off to college just yet!)

Quality Time

If you’re moving away for school, this is the best time to spend quality time with your sibs, your friends, and even your pet goldfish. Even if you aren’t going away, some of your childhood friends might be, so it’s a good time to solidify good, virtuous friendships. Here are some things you can do:

1. Go on a family vacation or plan a staycation day-trip. Family is important. Despite any differences you might have with your siblings or parents, your family is a gift from God. Pray for your family and spend intentional, uninterrupted time with them. This is especially important if you have younger siblings who will really miss having you around once you head off to college.

2. Visit your grandparents or favorite older relatives. I bet they have a lot of words of wisdom and interesting anecdotes to share. Did they go to college? Ask them about their experiences.

3. Have your mom or grandma teach you easy-to-make meals. It’s another way to spend one-on-one time with them and will save you from eating top ramen every night.

4. Ask your dad or a big brother type to teach you how to change a flat tire. Flat tires happen to the best of us, even when you try your best to be holy and pray a rosary on your drive to class and hit a curb instead (not that I would know anything about that). Knowing how to get yourself out of this predicament is a great skill to have.

5. Spend time with your pets. They will note your absence and possibly even experience some sadness when you move off to college (but I’m not a veterinarian so what do I know?). Don’t leave them without happy memories!

6. Wake up early to watch the sunrise with your best friends. Whether it’s at the beach or mountain side, bring a guitar for some praise and worship. Follow up with Mass or Adoration together. Friends who pray together, stay together.

7. Buy a blank journal or recipe box and write down your favorite family recipes. Although I’m sure you mom or grandma wouldn’t mind if you call them later to ask about it, since they’ll definitely want to hear from you.

8. Make a time capsule with your best friend. Write a letter to yourself or each other, add a few of your favorite things, and then hide it so you can open it after your college graduation.

9. Do community service with your parish youth group. Volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen, help your parish plant flowers or repaint, or help beautify a neglected community center.

10. Buy a pack of stationary or postcards so you can send sweet notes to your friends throughout the year. It’s more thoughtful than a text message or Snap, and it’s always fun to receive snail mail, especially when it’s not expected.

Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit

Now is the time to create healthy habits for yourself before all of the demands of the fall semester kick in. It’s important to know what works for you and what doesn’t. It also helps to ask someone to hold you accountable as you head toward your goals. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit but only 3 to break one, so summer is the best time to get rolling.

11. Go on a Nun-Run, Friar-Run, or a Come-and-See. Even if you’re not sure if you’re called to religious life, visiting convents or monasteries can be an eye-opening experience. My trip to see a final profession allowed me to truly appreciate the vocation to consecrated life, while confirming it wasn’t God’s plan for me. I’ve never regretted going and I loved the new friendships I made with the sweet sisters I met!

12. Go on a local mission trip. We often look to third world countries when we want to make a change, but rarely look in our own backyard. There’s plenty of ways to share Christ’s love in our own cities. As beautiful as it may be to go on a foreign mission trip, we also need to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where we are. Seek out opportunities that might be available at your home parish or local diocese.

13. Volunteer at a nursing home. A lot of the elderly don’t have anyone who visits them. You can make their day just by stopping by to say hello. It’s like they’re stuck in a dorm with no classes and no fun, so why not being some fun their way?

14. Purge your closet and donate your clothes and knickknacks to a Catholic charity. Raise your hand if you have a habit of over-shopping or hoarding. That was me until I went to Haiti and realized how extra I was. After that trip, I purged 90% of my closet and sent it to the LT Mission there. It felt so GOOD knowing my clothes would be put to good use.

15. Start a workout routine. Determine what types of exercises you prefer and look up what your college or town offers. Not only is it good for your physical health to stay strong and fit, it also helps your emotional health (i.e., managing anxiety, depression, etc.).

16. Go on a retreat. They lead us to reflect on our lives and know ourselves better and we come out feeling replenished and ready to conquer the world. If you’re not already signed up for a Steubenville Conference or summer camp, check with your home parish to see if there is one you can participate in over the summer.

17. Enjoy beauty and go on an adventure. There’s something about nature that reminds us of God the creator and His love for us. Whether it’s hiking, camping, or simply reading at the park, learn to slow down and unplug from your phone. Rest is a good thing. Don’t forget that.

18. Learn to eat healthy to avoid the freshman 15. It’s not a myth. Opting for the ease of junk food can get out of control when we don’t learn to plan meals ahead of time. It’s not just about weight gain though. Healthy eating results in better cognitive performance, so it’ll help you keep your grades up too!

19. Read Theology of the Body or Men Women and the Mystery of Love. Learning about relationships, the meaning of the body, and our purpose now will definitely minimize future drama.

20. Get a spiritual check-up. Go to daily Mass or Adoration, pray the Examen each day (try this app), find a spiritual director to guide you in your spiritual life, and plan to attend Reconciliation more often, as these things help us mature in our spiritual life.

Being Human 101

Learning isn’t just academic. There are so many useful life hacks we should get acquainted with. Look up some how-tos and tutorials to learn some good, new things.

21. Practice the art of leisure. In a world that glorifies busyness, we need to learn the Catholic principle of just “being.” This will come in handy later on when you need to balance work and play.

22.Learn both your hometown and college town’s histories. Someone is bound to ask you about them, so avoid the blank look and the oh-so eloquent, “Um…?”

23. Learn something fun but random like improv, calligraphy, or playing the ukulele. It’s also fun to hone new skills and let’s face it, you’ll need something to do between studying.

24. Make decorations for your dorm. There’s something highly satisfying in owning a thing you made or personalized yourself. Plus it’ll make your dorm room truly one-of-a-kind.

25. Open a savings account and start saving for an emergency during the semester. You don’t wanna come across that moment when you have to call mom or dad for a loan. It’s always good to be prepared! (And they’ll be so proud!)

26. Set up a LinkedIn account. I mean, you’re gonna want a job someday, or maybe you have one already. Either way, it’s a great networking tool that can help you in a job search or career planning.

27. Discover what the best de-stress hobby is for your temperament. Knowing your temperament will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of beating yourself up for something you struggle with, you’ll know to have more patience with yourself (and with others who are different than you)!

28. Have a morning routine planned for rushed (and too-sleepy-to-function) mornings. It happens to everyone: You didn’t hear the alarm and you’re gonna have to haul to class. Having a routine — like having your books and clothes laid out the night before or preparing overnight oats — will save you lots of time on those rushed mornings.

29. Practice self-affirmation. Place post-its with the affirmations you’ve received from loved ones and your favorite, encouraging Bible verses on your mirror. Remember you are awesome, worthy, unique, strong, gifted, loved, and valuable. and we’re all rooting for you.

30. Not to toot our own horn, but check out the Life Teen blog regularly. My fellow bloggers have so many great insights on navigating life. Blogs specifically about living genuinely as virtuous men or women are also good to catch up on.