by Lisa Cynamon Mayers
Former Admission Counselor Washington University in St Louis
A high school student’s ideal summer vacation should involve growth, learning, relaxation and fun. Summer is a time for exploration and skill building. It is an opportunity to extend learning beyond the confines of the classroom. Though it’s still winter and summer seems eons away, students and parents should begin discussing and researching summer options sooner than later. Some important questions to ask as you embark on the process:
- What would you most like to explore this summer that isn’t taught in school? This could be an academic subject, a skill set, a hobby, etc. Perhaps you’ve always been interested in learning a language that isn’t taught at your high school. Or you’re eager to explore what an architect does on a daily basis. Or you want to experience working with children, the elderly or the environment. Use your summer vacation to expand your knowledge.
- How important is it for you to earn money over the summer? This is a critical question. Due to a range of circumstances is it necessary for you to earn and save money over the summer? If the answer is yes, you will need to aggressively pursue paid employment. College admission counselors don’t place a higher value on summer academic programs over paid employment. The responsibility and skills gained through employment, whether as a lifeguard, camp counselor, snack shop employee or cashier, can prepare you for the future that lies ahead.
- How much money can your family invest in a summer program? There are amazing summer programs-- academic experiences, travel, service work-- for students to consider. Many of these programs can be pricey. As a family you need to seriously consider how much money you can invest in a summer learning experience. There is not a direct correlation between pricey summer programs and college acceptances.
- What might you want to discover about yourself? Summer is a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself into exploring previously undiscovered dimensions of your personality or interests. Consider ways to move beyond your comfort zone as you develop your summer possibilities.
The bottom line is whether you choose to pursue an internship, research position, employment, travel, summer academic program, etc., college admission counselors will not elevate one of these experiences above all others. Every student is different. Everyone’s goals are different. And at the end of the day you should utilize your summer in a way that is most appropriate for you.