Sports fans (and sports participants) understand the role of the off-season. It’s a time for athletes to heal and to take a break—physically and mentally—from the day-to-day grind of practice and the relentless pressure of competition. But the off-season is also a time to prepare, to study, and to improve. Athletes will train, work on important components of their game, and address any areas that will help them compete when the next season arrives. Done correctly, this balance of recovery and recommitment means that an athlete arrives at the start of the next season primed for performance. Don’t show up run-down. Don’t show up out of shape. Show up rested and ready to get to work.
High school seniors should view their summer the same way.
If your junior year felt like a nine-month sprint full of AP classes, standardized tests, and extracurriculars, if sufficient downtime became a lost luxury, the summer is your time to rest and recover. Get eight hours of sleep on a regular basis. Spend time with your friends and family. Do things that make you happy, especially those that have absolutely nothing to do with getting into college. That’s the resting part of your off-season, and it’s crucial for your future readiness and performance.
But the senior year will eventually arrive. And in addition to the usual rigors, you’ll have college applications and the associated deadlines to contend with. Why not use the summer to help you prepare and to ensure you don’t have to start the (college application) season out of shape?
During your summer off-season, you can research and finalize your college list. You can begin and even complete some of your college applications and essays. You can retake a standardized test or assemble a required portfolio or prepare a schedule of what needs to be done and when.
Best of all, each of those tasks can exist concurrently with a consistent regimen of rest and recovery. Much as it does for an athlete, an effective off-season should be about striking a balance, one that leaves you ready to perform when the season officially begins.
The off-season, like the season itself, won’t last forever. You’ve got to take advantage of it when it’s presented to you. So don’t miss it. Don’t enjoy so much downtime that you arrive to the season out of application shape, but don’t press so hard that you’re run-down before the season even begins. You’ve got rest to take and work to do. And the off-season is your opportunity for both.