Summer is just around the corner.

For many of you that means sand, surf and snoozing.  While we are all for enjoying time off and relaxing in the sun—summer also provides high school students with great opportunities for a few “mind changing” experiences.

For those of you old enough to work, finding a great summer job is invaluable.  It not only gives you insight into the world of work, but also helps develop essential skills for success outside of the classroom.  Paid or unpaid work will provide you with a more clear understanding of  the value of responsibility, reliability and a strong work ethic.  Never discount any job–even if the only thing you learn from working at a fast food joint or as a day camp counselor is that you never want to do these jobs again.  That is valuable information.  Store these tidbits away for when you consider possible career fields.  If you didn’t like working with children or at Mickey D’s when you were a teenager, what has changed that may interest you in these career fields now?  A job can give you a glimpse into a particular career, nudge you in a direction or help you steer clear of certain vocations.  Another thing to remember is that college admission officers take your work experiences into consideration regardless of whether it is flipping burgers or filing law reports.

Other ways to make the most of your summer vacation is to “test drive” careers you find interesting by working or volunteering in that particular career. A first stop should be your high school guidance office to learn more about available internship opportunities. Remember, college for many is a short four year “gig” but you will be working for decades. So discovering a career that is both interesting and challenging to you will help create a more satisfying, rewarding and happier life.

Combining work with academic pursuits may help you discover new and interesting parts of yourself.  Many colleges and universities have programs for high school students in a variety of academic areas such as engineering, writing, science or the fine arts. It is a great way for a student to discover if a school is a good fit by attending a summer program and living on campus.  Living in a dorm inBoston,New YorkCity orWashington,DCcan help you decide whether spending four years at an urban university is the right choice.  Conversely, a summer opportunity at a rural campus in upstateNew Yorkor the far reaches ofNew Englandwill help future applicants determine if country living is for them.  Some of the programs may seem out of reach financially but many offer financial assistance.  For details, take a look at college websites to see summer offerings for high school students.

There are also programs that offerstudents a glimpse into a particular career field such as the financial, food, movie, and fashion industries.  One example is the BansonNYC Fashion Boot Camp in New York City.  This week-long program gives high school students a hands-on glimpse into the sometimes not so glamorous world of fashion.

Students in this program spend a week living in a dorm in mid-townManhattan, and meeting professionals within the fashion industry.  Additionally, the students learn the educational framework of retailing (i.e. retail math and an educational comparative shopping trip) and tie it all together with information on colleges and universities in and outside of ‘the city’ that have programs to meet professional goals within the fashion industry.  This eye-opening experience can help students solidify their dreams of a career in fashion.  This experience can also show students that the chosen industry is not for them.  In either case, the student knows so much more about her or his professional aspirations.  Experiential and academic opportunities like these are often worth the price tag because they help students make clear choices from the start of their college career rather than mid-stream.

Another great way to be productive this summer is to investigate and visit potential colleges and universities. Summer may not be the ideal time to visit campus due to the slower pace of summer school and the reduced number of students on campus.  However, you can get a taste of what the campus is like and return in the fall if your interest is piqued.

We also recommend (for those readers –and parents of readers who are readying themselves to start their senior year in high school) writing your college essay before the school year begins.  For more information on this, check out this link to a video testimonial by a student who participated in our college essay writing workshop last summer.

Of course, we also want students to recharge their batteries and prepare mentally and physically for senior year so do not forget to enjoy yourself too.