Parents often ask us when they should start preparing their child for college. I suppose the answer is from the very beginning by instilling a love of reading, learning, creativity and curiosity in those first couple years of life and then encouraging these same things as your child enters school.
But, when to officially start building a college resume is, in many cases, dependent on the individual child. Some children are just academically inclined or naturally gravitate towards extracurricular activities. They may want to participate in programs, camps and activities that will help develop skills, confidence and passion. That really is the key, how do you help your children develop skills, confidence and passion? At the end of the day, with thousands of students with 4.0+ GPAs and 2200s on the SATs, it’s everything else that is likely to secure them a spot at the college of their dreams.
Summer is a great time to encourage growth and there are unlimited options for your child to choose from. Starting in middle school, many colleges and other organizations offer specialized academic, athletic and arts centered programs for students beginning to focus in on a particular interest. We recommend considering these programs as a way to strengthen an already established passion or explore a topic one is curious about. In middle school, it’s not about making your child competitive for college in the most obvious sense, it’s about nurturing a child’s interests.
In high school, everything a student does or does not do, is considered by colleges and so what your child does in the summer is integral to success in college admission. But, don’t just enroll your child in a prestigious program because it’s prestigious. Enroll your child in a program that is a match for his interests and strengths.
To get started with summer research, we recommend beginning here:
- Visit Teen Ink, a comprehensive website for teenagers that has an extensive summer programs guide.
- Go to your local community college to see if high school students can take summer classes.
- Go to your local YMCA. Preteens and teenagers can be counselors-in-training (CIT), which is a great way for them to develop independence, leadership skills and maturity.
- If you child has a dream college or colleges already, have him do some research to see if those colleges have summer programs. Most top-colleges have reputable and very engaging programs.
- Encourage your child to be a long-term volunteer at a local organization that does work around one of his interests (i.e. SPCA, hospital, food bank, museum, school, art or dance studio etc).
- Encourage your child to find an internship in a field he is interested in pursuing. Many companies and organizations, big and small, offer internships. This is the best way for a high school student to develop both practical office skills and see if he’s really interested in a field he’s curious about. Visit Internships.com to learn more.
- If it’s important or necessary for your child to make money, that’s fine too. High schools students who have jobs develop real-world skills that colleges value.
The cost of a summer opportunity can vary from free to very pricey, but more expensive does not mean better. Like most things in life, any summer experience is what your child makes of it, so do not feel pressured to spend thousands of dollars.