It seems crazy to be thinking about summer in January, but now really is the right time to be sifting through and discussing summer opportunities.
Why is what a student does over the summer important?
There are 28,000-plus high schools across the United States. That means there are 28,000 senior class presidents, 28,000 newspaper editors and thousands of athletes applying to colleges every year.
During the academic year it’s challenging for students to set themselves apart. Starting a new club, organization or company is distinctive, but not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
But the summer, with no homework, no club meetings and an open agenda, is a time when students can dig deeper, follow their passions, make a bigger commitment and demonstrate their interest in a defined way.
Have a passion? There’s a summer opportunity for that.
For students who have always enjoyed creative writing but have found it difficult to find the time during the school year to write and submit their work to magazines, then the summer is a great time to explore that interest in more depth.
There are programs galore for budding engineers – ones that focus on specialized areas of engineering and others that offer more of a survey course, introducing students to many engineering careers.
Besides the link to a possible future careers, these programs are a wonderful way for high school students to experience campus life by living in dormitories, eating in the dining hall and having a large degree of independence.
What if you want to take the summer off from academics?
I often tell families that leadership is the single most sought-after transferrable skill from high school to college. Colleges need to replenish their leadership roles each year and look favorably on leadership experience in high school.
Colleges rightly assume that if students rose through the ranks to become leaders in a high school club, activity or organization, the likelihood is that they will utilize those same skills at college. Check with your high school about leadership programs.
What are some things to watch out for as you plan your summer?
If you’re a little skeptical upon receiving invitations to programs that proclaim “You’ve been selected from among thousands of high school students…,” you have good instincts.
Read the fine print; understand the costs involved and the specifics of what the program is offering.
Many of these programs are interesting, but some are expensive summer camps disguised as a direct entry to the Ivy League.
Creating a patchwork of summer experiences, including paid employment, is always a great compromise.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.
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