Juniors, if you could do anything this summer...

When College Admission was in high school, summers felt long and slow, a time to earn some extra money and hang out with friends. We worked as a neighborhood babysitter and a proof reader at the local newspaper. Earned a little extra high school credit with classes at the local community college -- one was a "typing course"! Polished short stories in the style of John Cheever that garnered a desk drawer full of rejection slips. On days off, we sprayed our hair with Sun-In and hit the deck at the pool. Every night, we met up with friends by the swings at Kilgore Park. There was so much time for everything.

Today, high school students -- particularly rising seniors -- may feel the need to fill their summer fuller. Terri Devine of Francis Parker School in San Diego, CA, joins us today to talk about summer plans -- particularly for any juniors stressing about their resumes. Read on for some good advice and great ideas…  

What Should Juniors Be Doing This Summer?

The answer to this question is really quite simple…get some rest, read, and explore what you find truly interesting (and it would be fine with everyone if what you find truly interesting is a summer job…more on that later).

Today, as students weigh the numerous summer opportunities available, too much emphasis is often placed on what activities will LOOK GOOD on the college application -- ignoring genuine interests and curiosities. There isn't one program, internship, or volunteer opportunity that will be noticed more than another in the college admission process.  The question an admission officer will simply ask is, "Why...of all the things that you could spend your time doing, did you choose this?"

Instead of focusing on what will impress others, it is best to allow genuine curiosity to lead the way.  Perhaps you were inspired by a story during your American Literature class and now would like to read other books by the same author, or you read about a particular historical event or scientific discovery that you'd like to investigate further by taking a class at a local college or museum. Perhaps you would like to, or need to, work to make money for college, or take on an internship in a field of interest.  Maybe you attended the same summer camp since childhood and now would like to apply to serve as a counselor.  The possibilities are endless. 

I like to start the conversation about summer plans by asking my students, “If you could do anything this summer…explore anything, read anything, go anywhere…what would you do?”  I believe that if you follow the things that a person is naturally curious about….the things they’d like to explore…you will find a wealth of things to do over the summer.  I often ask my students to write down something they’re curious about or would like to explore and add “summer program” to it and do a Google search.  You’d be amazed at the incredible opportunities that arise.  By allowing curiosity to lead the way, students begin to discover a lot about themselves and perhaps uncover a potential career path or college major.

There are countless summer programs available and many cost thousands of dollars.  Don't be fooled into thinking that simply spending money on an enrichment, leadership or test prep program will somehow make an application come alive.  Finding ways to connect to the local community through service, jobs, classes etc. will make an application stand out.  It's not about spending money or traveling to far-off places for service work; there are plenty of ways to volunteer and positively impact one’s own community. 

Summer jobs have all but disappeared as students fly off to far-flung places to photograph elephants and save sea turtles.  While all these volunteer efforts are nice (and hopefully helpful), nothing shows commitment and responsibility like a summer job.  For many students, work during the summer is a necessity if they are to be able to afford college.  And, many colleges require a student financial contribution as part of the financial package.  Showing up on time, working well with others, responsibly handling money and business matters, all say great things about your commitment, sense of responsibility and your character.  And, a student may even gain a nice supplemental recommendation letter from an employer to add to the admission file (which can mean a lot more in the college process than those pictures of elephants).

Many students, when asked about their summer plans, will begin by saying they’d like to sleep…and I’d agree that this is a good place to start.  Students need to get some rest.  They’ve had a long and busy year filled with classes, homework, standardized tests, test prep, sports and other activities.  Summertime needs to include some downtime so that students can reflect on their year and replenish themselves for the fall. 






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