How teens spend their summers has become an increasingly important piece of the college admissions puzzle. Objective measures like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and transcripts can quickly become lifeless numbers in a sea of sameness. (Yup, another 4.0 GPA, check).
Admissions officers are being forced to look elsewhere to find what differentiates students from each other. They often turn to letters of recommendation, alumni interviews, and, of course, summer experiences.
Let's start with the tactics, then we'll move into strategy.
Here are some options to consider for the summer:
Volunteer Work (FT or PT):
Volunteer work is easy to find, affordable, and can be full-time, part-time, or project-based. Not only does volunteer work show that you care about someone other than yourself, but it also allows a teen to gain real-world experience in a field or industry they enjoy.
Paid Work (FT or PT):
Colleges love to see applicants who have worked at a paying job - of any kind. Sometimes,...
Please don't underestimate the power of the summer. It's a magical time for teens that can either be optimized or squandered.
Yes, colleges like to see your child engaged in interesting and productive pursuits during the summer, but that's only half the story.
The summer is also the time for your child to find out more about themselves. What do they like? What do they hate? What is it like to make money? What is it like to do manual labor? What is it like to work in a cubicle? What is it like to find a job?
These are invaluable experiences that teens need to live through to make better decisions in the years ahead.
I call summer activities "Summer Quests" because your child should be searching for something. Here are some things worthy of their search:
What interests your child?
The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...
My days are spent speaking with high school students across the country about their lives. In particular, about their interests, college admissions strategies, and life ambitions. It's my passion.
After reviewing (and editing) hundreds of stellar college applications, resumes, personal statements, and college essays, there is one designation that captures the essence of what colleges are looking for in their prospective students - an Eagle Scout.
My job as college counselor and mentor becomes much easier when I'm working with an Eagle Scout. I know what it takes to make it through the program and it is not difficult to help Scouts express these attributes within their college applications.
Some people believe that colleges give disproportionate credit to Eagle Scouts in the admissions process. I beg to differ - and the 10 items below provide more than enough evidence as to why admissions officers sit up straighter in their chairs when reading the applications of Eagle Scouts....
Role-playing can be a great way to teach kids how to deal with uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) situations.
For instance, consider the conditions surrounding a teenager when it comes to drinking alcohol for the first time.
Typically, this scenario plays out at a friend's house with a small group of friends or teammates. One of the kids has access to alcohol and suggests that they "try it".
If your son or daughter is part of the group, the pressure to conform can be daunting.
To prepare my kids for this scenario, I role-play with them.
Scenario #1: Sneaking alcohol
Teammate: "Hey, wanna try some beer? I took some from the garage. My parents have no clue."
Your child (reluctantly): "I'm not sure. I haven't ever tried it."
Teammate: "Dude, so what. Everyone has to start sometime. Try it..."
Your child: "Nah, no thanks."
Teammate: "Dude, what's the big deal? Just take a sip. It's not going to kill you. I do it all the time."
Your child: "I don't want to barf, man."
In addition to last week's question regarding How do I build a list of colleges? the next biggest challenge I hear from parents (and kids) seems to be:
"What should my child do this summer?"
Of course, the standard, generic advice is:
I like to provide more unconventional advice to my PrepWellers.
Cast a Wide Summer Shadow
If your child wants a unique summer experience, encourage them to "shadow" as many people in as many careers as possible.
These days, kids have no clue what people do at their jobs.
They see people rush into buildings, shuffle around the streets with their Starbucks coffee, and sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway.
What happens the other 97% of the time?
My 8th-grade son is obsessed with the question:
"Dad, what do people do all day at work?"
He is fascinated by the whole concept.
Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest idea what to tell him.
I haven't had a conventional job for many years so I find it difficult to...
By the time your child gets to high school, they should be completely self-sufficient when it comes to homework.
This skill comes more naturally to some children than to others (first-born children seem to "get-it" a little sooner than second or third, for instance).
As parents, it's our responsibility to ensure they have this skill mastered by the time they reach 9th grade.
Consider these factors when helping your child build this important habit:
Same time: Establish a specific time to complete homework and stick to it. Ideally, this would be right after school and prior to sports, social activities, and entertainment. My favorite quote is "Do the hard stuff first".
Same place: Identify a place for homework and make it the same spot every time. (e.g. kitchen table, bedroom, home office, Starbucks, etc.)
Clutter free: Clear the workspace of non-homework related items - even if it means moving items into a different room temporarily during homework time. The fewer things on the desk...
I just got back from a mastermind weekend with a few business associates where we exchanged ideas about our business prospects, challenges, and best practices.
I had a chance to introduce PrepWell Academy to the group. Needless to say, they were very excited, as many of them have children in 6th - 11th grade.
One particular participant, however, took me by surprise.
He told me he had a 9th-grade son who would be thrilled to do any one of the things I've done in my life.
This guy absolutely loved the idea of PrepWell and having me as a role model for his son; however, he wanted more. He wanted me to be his son's full-time college coach.
"I'll pay you $25,000 to coach him over the next 3 years," he told me.
Wow! I wasn't expecting that.
We spent the next 15 minutes chatting about his son, his $25,000 offer, and what type of coaching I thought would be most useful to him and his son.
By the end of the conversation, I had talked him out of spending $25,000 and into enrolling in PrepWell...
7 Essential Skills for Teens
I believe professional success is directly related to how well we master 7 essential skills. If we master these skills, it won't matter if we go to Princeton University, Wichita State, or East Lansing Community College.
It won't matter if we ultimately enter the private sector, public sector, or outer space - we will succeed in life.
I deployed (and re-deployed) these 7 skills hundreds (if not thousands) of times during my 30-year journey from Yale University, to Investment Banking, to the Navy SEALs, to Harvard Business School, to Firefighting, to Entrepreneurship, to Shark Tank, to PrepWell Academy.
The daily roles and responsibilities in each of these fields were dramatically different. The skills required to get into each of these fields were dramatically similar. And that's the point.
The reason these skills are so "essential" is because they are so "repeatable".
Learning these repeatable skills will allow you to adjust, change, regroup, and...
For children, trying new things can be hard. Whether it's acquiring a new skill, making new friends, dealing with a new environment, or taking direction from a new coach - it's hard to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
This ability to push through discomfort at a young age is an early and accurate signal of how well children will do in high school, college, and life. Children with this type of "grit" fare better than those without.
Angela Duckworth, an expert on this topic, defines grit as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals". Duckworth found that students who made a regular practice of doing "hard things" during their childhood, were better prepared to deal with the challenges and obstacles of adulthood.
How do we, as parents, manage the balance between supporting our children to push through hard things and forcing them to do so?
Below is one method, based on Duckworth's extensive work, that can be adopted by any family.
The Hard Thing Rule
Sports, music, clubs, community service and other extracurricular activities will soon become very important in the college admissions process. They paint a picture of who your child is and how they choose to spend their time. Deciding which and how many activities to pursue can be a challenge. Deciding when to quit a particular activity can be fraught with indecision as well.
What do you do when your son or daughter wants to quit something? Do you let them? Or do you force them to stick it out? Consider these factors first: