With today’s students coping with the ever-increasing demands of school and afterschool activities, it can be tempting to just let them relax all summer.
The need for a "summer off" is the first on our list of summer planning myths.
Let's take a look at this and six other myths that it's time to reconsider.
My student spent all year working hard in school and with extracurriculars. Summer is a time to relax. We're not saying your student should be working 40-hour weeks for the entire summer. But nine weeks spent in front of the Xbox or Netflix isn't in the best interest of your teen’s development. Plus, it's a missed opportunity for helping your students develop new interests and skills—not to mention boosting their college potential.
My student is a great math student, so they should participate in an engineering program. Teens may not know what they’re interested in yet. Just because a certain subject comes easy to them, it doesn't mean that's where their interests lie. Of course, if your great math student is interested in engineering, a quality program can be a wonderful way to gain exposure to a potential major and career. But if it's just a strength—not an interest—we suggest looking for broader opportunities to let them discover their interests on their own.
Attending an Ivy League summer program will help my child get into that school. This is called “gaming the system” to gain a leg up for college admissions—and it's not recommended. These programs typically don't provide any help in gaining admission to the college, so unless your child is genuinely interested in the program itself, they shouldn't attend.
My student should do more than just be a cashier or waiter. This is such a common assumption, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Summer jobs can have a powerful impact on students, teaching them real-world responsibility and enhancing communication skills. It can also be more impressive to college admissions officers than working, for example, at a parent's office. For more on the subject, take a look at this article, which discusses the powerful life skills teens can learn from common jobs.
Volunteer work isn’t enough. Don’t underestimate the power of meaningful volunteer work to impact both your student and your local community. With in-depth involvement, students can gain valuable career skills and develop new connections, while also helping the community. Encouraging your student to volunteer with an organization in a potential field of interest is a great way to add to their resume. For example, students interested in the veterinary field may want to volunteer at an animal shelter or with a local veterinary office. Budding writers may find great volunteer opportunities at the local library or in summer academic programs. Organizations like VolunteerMatch can help your student research volunteer opportunities related to their interests. And asking these questions can help you find the right volunteer opportunity for your student.
Getting over 100 service hours during the summer is critical. It’s not the number of community service hours that matters—it's the impact those hours have. If serving others is your student’s passion, then by all means encourage them in their efforts to get deeply involved, a prospect that often naturally leads to hundreds of service hours. But doing a variety of community service projects—like volunteering at a race or working at a soup kitchen for a day—just for the sake of getting 100 hours isn’t as valuable as being able to demonstrate ongoing commitment to a certain organization and increased responsibility throughout the summer. Those kinds of experiences can also lead to great college essay topics.
My student should stick with what they're already good at. Encouraging your student to try new things is a good way for them to learn more about themselves—and increase their confidence. For example, if your science- and math-oriented student wants to attend a summer program and take a science-related class, why not also encourage them to take one in an area they don't know anything about? Many programs offer morning and afternoon classes for this very reason. Students gravitate toward what they’re good at because it’s easy, but challenging themselves with new, unfamiliar opportunities is an important way for students to develop as people.