Capstone College and Career Advising

Making the most of your summer:

April 22nd, 2014 by

A few years ago, one of my students went off to a week-long summer camp program that promised to give students an inside view of criminal investigations. He was still in high school, but he was very interested in a college major that would lead him to a job in that field, and the camp was sponsored by a college with a great reputation in the subject matter. He couldn’t wait to go.

Needless to say, I was excited to hear about his experience. But when we met afterward, he informed me it hadn’t been anything like he’d expected, and he no longer wanted to pursue that major. It was a waste of his time and money, he concluded.

He was surprised when I disagreed. Actually, it was an extremely valuable experience, I told him. Imagine he’d gone ahead and declared that major, and then realized it wasn’t for him. Instead of being out one week of his summer and a few hundred dollars, he’d have spent thousands of dollars – and at least a couple of years – pursuing a path that didn’t suit him.

That’s why high school students should be looking right now for camps and courses that they’d like to attend this summer. Whether the program ends up leading a student to the perfect major or campus – or just helps them determine what they don’t want – there’s a lot to be said for the experience that students gain in intensive, special-interest summer camps.

For one thing, programs based on college campuses give high schoolers the opportunity to get a taste of college life: they sleep in dorm rooms, eat in the cafeteria, hang out in the student union, and walk all over campus. I’ve seen several students fall in love with a specific campus during a summer stay, but even if that particular college isn’t the right fit, students can gain important insights. For instance, they’ll learn whether they prefer a big campus or a small one, a school that’s rural or urban, or even a “commuter” campus where they can continue to live at home.

Second, a special-interest program in an area of interest such as engineering, astronomy, or foreign language gives a student the opportunity to do a “deep dive” into something they’re curious about. It may spark interest in exploring the field further, or help them branch out to a related subject. It can also give students a leg up in a challenging course they’re taking the following year.

Third, yes, many programs look good on that application resume. Admissions officers are looking for students who are curious, passionate, and willing to work hard – and a good summer program will help students stretch and grow.

Finally, if money is an issue, look into the first or last week of the program; sometimes, camps will cut a tuition break on those sessions because they are less popular. Many camps also offer some scholarship assistance; it never hurts to ask!