Those Lazy Days of Summer

As competition for college admission increases, those lazy days of summer are a distant memory for most high school students.
Some colleges allow high school students to attend summer sessions, where they can study subjects that are not offered in high school, explore possible college majors, and earn transferable college credits. This is serious school, and students need to be motivated to spend two or three hours in class and then study several hours every day.
Spending six weeks at University of Pennsylvania or Boston University is a great way to find out if urban life is as exciting as it sounds. For those who prefer a more scenic environment, Cornell has a strong summer program and a beautiful campus.
While summer college programs are expensive, often costing more than $1,000 a week (financial aid is limited), for motivated students, they provide a head start on the transition to college. Learning how to do research in a university library, how to live with a roommate, even how to do laundry, can help students feel more independent and self-confident.
There are many enrichment programs that don’t offer college credit but do provide an opportunity for students to pursue their interests. Students who want to perfect their Spanish may want to do a homestay in Spain or Latin America. A budding engineer might enjoy a camp where they build robots.
For others, community service is the way to create a meaningful summer experience.
The Student Conservation Association sends crews of six to eight students, with two adult leaders, to national parks, forests and urban green spaces. Crews spend their days repairing hiking trails, building shelters, fighting invasive species and protecting wildlife habitats.
Of course, you don’t have to travel across the country to be involved in community service. There are many local organizations that also offer the opportunity to stay involved through the school year as well as during the summer.
Some students need or want to earn money over the summer. Having a job can help you learn how to work with people, prioritize tasks and manage time. Earning a paycheck can also provide a wonderful boost to self-esteem.
Summer jobs can also offer opportunities to explore career interests. If a student wants to be a veterinarian, a job at an animal hospital is an excellent way to see what’s involved in being a vet. Working as a camp counselor is great for students who may be interested in teaching or psychology.
Students may worry that a job won’t look impressive on college applications. But admissions officers say they would love to read an essay from a student describing the experience of working as a supermarket checker.
Some students create their own summer programs. A prospective science major might contact professors at local colleges who are doing interesting research and see if they could use some help in their lab over the summer. This can be a way for a student to find out if microbiology is really where she’s headed, and if things go well, to ask for a recommendation letter.
With so many options, students need to keep in mind that there’s not one “best” summer activity. If you find something you are excited about doing, you’re likely to experience the kind of personal growth that makes for more interesting college applications.