How to Be Strategic About your Teen's Summers

 

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,...

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How Teens Can Optimize Their Summer

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:

  • work experience
  • passion
  • education
  • travel experiences
  • fun and adventure
  • money
  • exposure

What interests your child?

The first place for your child to start when considering their summer plans is what they are interested in. If...

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Best Summer Job: Career Shadowing

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:

  • find a job
  • find an internship
  • volunteer

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...

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