Director of College Counseling welcomes Seniors to the spring Senior College Celebration.

As Colorado emerges from quarantine this summer, high school students have the opportunity to rethink what they value and how they want to spend their time. Those activities, hobbies, or even, dare I say, friendships that consumed your energy in the past, just might not excite you anymore. And it’s okay. Each step (or pivot) you take towards what is meaningful to you is a step in the right direction.

Here in the Colorado Academy College Office we gathered Sophomores recently to have them evaluate what “sparks joy” in their lives. For each of their main activities, they answered a series of questions and eventually came up with a “joy rating,” an actual number that told them something about their level of interest. Some students were surprised to realize how much or how little certain pursuits mean to them at this halfway point of high school. We have these same conversations with Juniors each spring, as we help them think about their ideal summer plans. There is no perfect recipe, we say, but the main ingredient of any extracurricular should be authenticity.

When students know themselves and what drives them, they approach the college search and application process from that same place of authenticity to find schools that “fit.”

Here is a quick recipe for making the most of your summer:

First: Reevaluate what’s important to you.

Second: Reflect on what you truly enjoy about your hobbies and extracurriculars.

Third: Make a list. What have you always wanted to learn (or teach yourself!), read, watch, explore, or experience?

Fourth: Think about what you do when you have no plans. Where does your mind go when it wanders? Embrace that place.

Each spring I count the days until mid-May, when our Denver frost has safely thawed and nighttime temperatures rise—at last! I pull on a fresh pair of gloves and begin to tend to my garden. The prospect of happy plants and a magical outdoor space brings me joy today, as it has since I was a small child. In high school, I recall staying up late into the night to design and plant my first flower bed.

A garden is the perfect venue for trial and error; you choose the right moment, the right (mostly) sunny spot, and the Penstemon in the perfect hue of red. And suddenly it’s devoured by the wrong bug in the right place, and you’re tempted to rip it all out (to spite the bug) and start all over again. I won’t lie and say that I haven’t! But I think you can, too. There’s always another season. Maybe simple tulips were the better choice to “spark joy,” anyway. Try that instead.