It’s (almost) summertime! Summer is a time for swimming and vacationing but it can also include planning for college. Whether you have a child who is an incoming freshman or senior, they should be doing something over the summer to help prepare them for college. College is becoming more and more competitive and in order for your child to be among the competition, it is important to prepare early to alleviate stress later on.
Students can volunteer, work on independent research projects, work a part-time job, and the list goes on and on. I encourage all of my students to take an active role in their local community. Volunteer work should be something the student is passionate about, and not just something to put on their resume for college applications. If students choose something they care about, they are more likely to stick with it (and enjoy it) and have an impact on their community. One website that I find beneficial is www.volunteermatch.org If your child is passionate about the environment, encourage them to create a recycling program (or other environmental ideas such as worm farming, composting, rainwater collecting) in your office, neighborhood, church, or right in your own home! It can be fun yet challenging for the whole family. (These “projects” can turn into great college essays!)
If your child is undecided about what they want to be when they grow up, I highly encourage job shadows. Many companies are willing to have your child shadow one of their employees for an hour or a day. This is one of the best ways to get students exposed to the various occupations that exist today. All you need to do is call and ask. It is also helpful to talk to your friends and family members that might be able to act as a resource for your child to ask questions about a particular career field.
In addition to volunteer work, students can get a J.O.B. Part-time jobs can teach teens responsibility not only with their work ethic but also their calendar. It helps them learn how to manage their time as well. I'm not talking about working 40 hours a week (unless the students really want to) but even ten hours a week can give a teen some extra cash in their pocket (which I've never heard of a parent arguing with, by the way.)
Not only can students start researching colleges early (freshman and sophomore year) but they can start their own independent research project with a local college or university or even one of their high school teachers. Remember that worm farm I mentioned above???? Could be a great topic for research!
Summertime is also a great time to research colleges because schedules are less hectic (or at least they should be) which gives them a little more time to casually peruse college websites. There are tons of websites to research colleges. Some of my favorites include: www.niche.com, www.campustours.com and www.collegedata.com. Remind them to be realistic about their college choices. For example, if they learn better in smaller environments and need personalized attention, larger schools probably won’t be the best fit. By researching colleges early, you can also discover what kind of requirements your child will need for certain schools such as 4 years of laboratory science or an art portfolio for architecture majors. It is never too early to start visiting colleges. The number one way to find what “fits” your child best is by visiting the campus. Campus visits can easily work into vacation schedules. And they really can be fun for the whole family! (Really!)
The last point I want to make about summertime (and planning for college) is “Enjoy!” Yes, it is important to plan ahead for college but it doesn’t mean overkill from the beginning. Planning for college should be fun and by planning ahead, the entire family will enjoy the process much more. The college process should NOT negatively impact your quality of life.