It's snowing here in New Jersey, but the pressure is already on (well, I feel it, anyway) to begin making plans for the summer. Educational, test prep, volunteer work, jobs? I asked the Mom's College Cram Course panel for thoughts on how teens should spend their summer vacations.
Today we'll hear from parents; tomorrow, from the professionals.
Kim Cook makes it simple. "Summer job, summer job, summer job! Preferably one they start during sophomore or even freshman summer and stick with to the end of high school. Doesn't matter how lowly - scooping ice cream imparts just as many valuable skills and life lessons as a fancy expensive program in some exotic locale. They learn how to deal with people good and bad, to be responsible for time and money (theirs and someone else's). They may learn what jobs they DON'T want to settle for down the road! Returning a second summer, or working part time through the school year, shows consistency and the added responsibilities look good on their resume."
Jeanne Hogle's children are following a similar path. Her daughter, a junior, will start off her summer with a 10-day medical conference in Philadelphia for teens interested in entering the medical field. It's an expensive 10-day seminar, which she is paying for herself through a school-year job, where she will likely work after the seminar. She will also volunteer at her church.
Her son, a sophomore, will also volunteer at church and is intent on finding a job. But Jeanne also wants to figure out ways to keep him motivated and on track, and is also thinking about SAT prep.
Sarah Wohlenhaus said her daughter will mix work and volunteer efforts, continuing at a summer camp again and possibly doing something with the Habitat for Humanity group in this area.
Tina Squyres says her family philosophy, given the stresses of the school year and how little free time our kids have, is to allow their daughters to do something that recharges their batteries and enables them to do something out of the ordinary. "Both of my kids have had very different ideas about what that is," she added.
"My older daughter participated in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) summer programs and really loved them. She also did non-CTY engineering and medical programs since she was interested in the two careers. That was very helpful in her opinion because she realized that she liked the science behind engineering but not the application. The medical program also solidified her interest in pursuing a career in medicine. Their younger daughter has opted for travel and performing arts programs.
Tina also pointed out that both daughters are required to work the summer after senior year of high school to earn money for college expenses. "My oldest daughter did, and enjoyed it, but I think her experiences during the previous summers were invaluable to her maturation."
As Jeanne said in conclusion, "I really do not know if it makes any difference if they attend a program, go to camp, or work. With the exception of the 'goofing-off' option, I think any activity, showing an interest in SOMETHING, is a positive."