For many of today’s college-bound high school students, summer is no longer nine weeks of total relaxation, but rather an opportunity to spend time actively working, learning new skills, or diving deeper into an area (or areas) of interest. Summer is the perfect time to take calculated risks that push students into unfamiliar situations that build skills and enrich life experiences. How do you find that experience? Planning — and knowing what types of opportunities to explore at each grade level throughout high school—is key.
Depending on what grade your student is in, you might consider making a loose, multi-year plan for your summers. It’s absolutely possible for students to do more than one activity during the summer. If there are multiple activities a student would like to participate in, we encourage them to include those activities in their summer plan to see how a summer might flow. Map out possible activities for the next few summers, and see if you identify a common thread or interest to pursue.
Freshman and sophomores: Summer programs, camps (including CIT programs), and travel are great options for exploring interests. Paid programs on college campuses probably won’t have any impact on getting into college but can be helpful for students (especially those who are less engaged in the college process or are first in their family to go to college) to experience what it’s like to live on a college campus and determine what they want in a college.
Juniors and seniors: Consider something that is more self-driven, such as a job, internship, or academic research. Students gain valuable experience from researching, applying to, and interviewing for jobs or internships.
Parents: know your student and their schedule! Make a plan that ensures the student doesn’t become too busy or overwhelmed; students should never return to classes in the fall feeling burnt out and exhausted. Take into account your teen’s personality and needs before signing up for a program that would push him or her too far. For example, an introverted teen who needs some downtime every day may not thrive in a month-long group program where she doesn’t get any alone time.