Guest Post by Carrie Spencer
College admissions offices are increasingly looking at teens’ summer activities to determine how motivated and well-rounded they’ll be as undergraduates. This means it’s more important than ever for students to have productive summers if they want to be competitive for college admissions and scholarships. However, you also want your stepkids to enjoy their last carefree months before the pressures of the real world hit. So how can you balance these competing demands?
Dig into Special Interests
Teens can use their summers as opportunities to explore interests that aren’t available at school. As schools are pushed toward standardized test preparation, programs like art, theater, and music are being cut in favor of expanded reading and math curricula. This means that extracurricular learning is more important than ever for students in search of a subject they’re passionate about. Both public and private institutions are responding by growing summer educational programs for teens.
- Pre-college programs offered by universities let students explore campus, take summer courses, and get a feel for college life. They’re a great opportunity for students who are nervous about moving away for college. They also help those who want to get a head start on networking with peers and instructors.
- The number of summer camps with a specialized focus is constantly growing. Your teen can enroll in a studio art camp at a local museum or unviersity. Or they can take advantage of STEM camps in fields from astronomy to entomology. They can even join a camp for budding rock ‘n’ roll musicians!
- Taking a class, whether in person or online, lets your stepkids explore potential college majors while preventing summer brain drain. Massive online open courses, or MOOCs, give access to classes from leading universities. Sites like CodeAcademy and Treehouse let your kid dive into the in-demand world of coding from your home.
If camp is out of your family’s budget, check out free summer camp options.
Think Outside the Box
Here are a few other ways your kids or stepkids can have a fun and productive summer.
- Starting a business lets teens earn money while exploring the nuances of entrepreneurship. Even a teen who is too young to get a job, can offer lawn care, dog walking, or babysitting to neighbors. They’ll learn responsibility, time management, and basic finances. College admissions officers will be impressed by their initiative and entrepreneurial spirit. Before long, your teen will have a view of the future that goes beyond college to include business ownership.
- Volunteering gives teens an opportunity to learn more about a topic they’re passionate about. Whether they give their time at an animal shelter, community center, or other nonprofit, volunteering gives teens experience in fields they may want to work in down the road.
- Put them to work for you. A summer project of decluttering the home and making it a space conducive to healthy living benefits the whole family. Creating a space conducive to meditation will get them in the right mindset before they go away to college. They’re going to be in for some big changes, but feeling comfortable with solitude will help open up creativity.
Careful Conversations with Your Teen
Be prepared for a bit of a struggle when you broach the topic of a productive summer with your teen. After all, many teens look forward to summer as a time for staying up all night and being free from responsibilities. However, staying active over summer break is crucial in the ever-competitive world of college admissions. Your teen will come to appreciate the advantages provided by a well-rounded summer.
For a successful conversation, talk to your teens about the importance of getting involved in extracurriculars over the summer. However, let them lead the planning and avoid over-scheduling their summer break. Use body language and tone of voice to keep the conversation positive. Be sure to focus on the benefits of a well planned summer, rather than the unfortunate consequences of doing nothing. After all, while planning for college is important, having time to relax is just as crucial to your teen’s long-term happiness.
Summer is an ideal time to help your teen prepare for a fulfilling future. Consider encouraging them to dig into an extracurricular interest, start a business, or declutter your home. Or they can find another productive way to spend their time and energy. This summer will only come around once. With a plan and structure in place, they can learn key life skills and make the most of every moment.
Carrie Spencer created The Spencers Adventures to share her family’s homesteading adventures. On the site, she shares tips on living self-sufficiently, fruit and vegetable gardening, parenting, conservation, and more. She and her wife have 3 kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats, 3 goats, 32 chickens, and a whole bunch of bees. Their goal is to live as self-sufficiently and environmentally-consciously as possible.