By Agustin “Tino” Diaz on April 21, 2016 @TinoJrDiaz

Summer in Utah is perfect. No school. No homework. Just bright sunny days and plenty of things to do outdoors. Summertime is also perfect for one more thing: saving for COLLEGE! Don’t worry, there will still be time to have your summer fun too.

First, summer is the perfect time to get a job. Try getting a job at an organization or company you’re interested in. That way, you’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself while getting paid. Summer is also a great  time to talk to professionals in your area of interest about what they do, what kind of education they have, and how they started in their career. Use your summer to help shape your choice for a future career and to put away some money for college.

Second, blow up your social media! You might not be saving money directly but you are creating your public profile which will stand out to college admissions, future employers, and scholarship committees, in turn helping you get and save money for college.  Colleges and universities love recruiting students (and giving them scholarships) with strong social media profiles and tend to be selected as student leaders. For example, Leslie, a student ambassador from USU Eastern, was  first noticed because of her friendly approach on social media by the leadership committee on campus. She applied for a Student Ambassador position and got it, however, what confirmed her appointment to the Student Ambassador position was her social media portfolio and her willingness to use social media as a way to recruit students. Maddie from USU Eastern, also showed examples of the same thing. She mentioned how she used social media (Twitter and Instagram) for classroom projects and leadership activities in high school. All of this impressed USU and they instantly asked her to be part of their ambassador program.

Start a YouTube channel or Tumblr, and begin posting videos about your passions and interests. If you don’t have a strong social media following or a lot of subscriptions, not worries. What’s important is how you deliver your material and if colleges like it. Developing your social media portfolio looks good for leadership positions and is a great stepping stone in understanding public relations and marketing in almost any career field. Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram to see how I use my social media profile and learn how to use your social media in creative and smart ways.

Third, visit college campuses. We have a lot of them in Utah. Call the admissions or recruitment office and ask for a campus tour. If your parents require a language other than English for the tour, make sure to request it and the college will do their best to accommodate you. If your parents work late in the evening, many colleges will host evening tours. Visiting colleges will give you a good idea of how much money you’ll need for college and will hopefully motivate you to do all you can to save and apply for scholarships.

Download a list of questions to ask when you’re on a campus tour

Finally, open a Utah Educational Savings Plan if your family hasn’t already done so. This is a tax- advantaged savings account specifically for saving for the costs of college. The earlier your family starts saving, the more money they’ll save (and you too) for your college expenses. Family and friends can also contribute money to your account for birthdays and holidays.

Have fun this summer but be smart about how you spend your summer too. Before you know it, you’ll be applying to college and you’ll want to be prepared.

Watch this awesome video for your final piece of advice:

Agustin “Tino” Diaz is a Community Outreach Officer with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA). Learn more about Tino and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.