Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How Juniors Should Spend Summer

astoria pool 

The space between Junior and Senior year is pretty unlike any other time in a person's life. You are about to enter the final year of high school, but are not yet an adult. You are not independent, but probably think you should be. You have one more year of academics ahead of you to earn your first major academic benchmark: a high school diploma. Unlike your summers in college, you don't have the same pressure to network and get internships that will lead to full time job prospects. You are building a resume, but it is for college admission not a promotion.

Suggestions for Summer:

1) Make your summer count. This means something different to different people, but think hard about how you are utilizing the time you have off of school. Usually, this can mean some combination of the following: a job, an internship, an enrichment class, college visits, and test prep. Like a stock portfolio, there are different proportions of these things that may be right for each person. The main important thing though is making sure that the balance is right for YOU. Summer will go very very quickly. Be sure that you don't find yourself the third week in August looking back at summer and nothing to show for it. (** please note - I never said everyone had to do everything from that list - if you aren't in an enrichment class or are not taking test prep or do not have a part time job that is a-ok!)

2) Missing school to visit colleges is NOT an excused absence. Don't like it? Talk to the Chancellor, it isn't our call. Colleges want to see top academic performance from students. That is virtually impossible if you are missing the foundational element of good attendance. So, be thoughtful about when you plan to visit college campuses. These should really take place over the summer, or in the fall on days when we don't have school or on weekends. Visit the college websites to see when they offer summer tours. Yes, I realize you won't get to see the campus running at full capacity. But that is OK. If you end up getting in and really want to decide about going you can go back on a school vacation in the spring.

3) Draft your essays over the summer, but recognize that they are still in draft form. Getting started early is a great idea. Colleges will typically publish their essay topics in August (The Common App has actually already released their main personal statement prompts) so take advantage of the summer as a way to get some ideas down on paper. Don't fall into the trap though of being so focused on getting essays done that you rush through them or are not open to constructive criticism once the school year starts. Coming up with a personal statement (and the various supplemental essays that colleges will require) takes time and nuance. Being stubborn and saying 'I did them all during the summer' won't help you. Plan ahead with estimated deadlines. You may have a different timeline than your friends.

4) Start to talk about finances with your family. Way too many people wait until way too late to start talking about the financial reality of college. It can sometimes be uncomfortable for parents/guardians to talk about things like assets and income with their teenager. And that is ok - some things can be left to the imagination. But, students and families SHOULD be open about a realistic college budget, the maximum amount of loans that will be an option, and negotiating how much the student will be responsible for paying (either up front or later on in paying back loans). How do you view $30,000? -- some individuals would call this number a great deal for year of college education, others would say that should be the total cost for all four years. If you don't have the conversation you won't know where your child/parent/guardian falls on that spectrum. Remember, a good college list includes 'financial aid likelys' --- it is ok to apply to more expensive schools, but have affordable guarantees as a back up.

5) Wear sunscreen.