When I meet with students for the first time, one of the questions I ask them is, “What are you doing this summer?” The answers vary from a shrug or an “I don’t know” to a full-blown description of a schedule that includes volunteering, a job and traveling the globe.
I certainly believe that a student deserves “down time” in the summer to take a breath, pursue an interest, read or even sleep. But I also believe in doing something that will help a student mature—whatever that is—whether it’s working at the local ice cream stand, studying a foreign language in an immersion program or being a counselor at a summer camp.
Many colleges run pre-college summer programs that allow students to live in the dorms and take classes geared especially for high school juniors and seniors. These are valuable opportunities, but do not play a direct part in the college admissions process. Students should do these programs because they want to, not because they believe it will buy them admission to the school of their choice.
One thing I want families to understand about summer is that no one experience is better than another. Working at the drugstore or scooping ice cream is just as valuable as traveling to other countries to volunteer.
So when thinking about summer with your child, consider all possibilities. I have had students do all of the following:
• Working in a nursery
• Dog walking
• Language immersion in various countries
• Pre-college summer programs
• Interning at various companies
• Working at local businesses
• Taking online classes
• Live with family in different locations than their home
• Camp counselor