Transition from High School
Making the most of summer — Ideas for parents of rising seniors
By Robin Noble
The summer between your student’s junior and senior year will fly by, and in addition to the usual work, play, travel, etc. there is quite a slog to accomplish on the college search front.
Like enjoying a glass of wine while cooking a complicated gourmet meal, summer for your rising senior can be both fun and productive — with a little coaching from you. Our top six suggestions:
1. This spring, plan a nice meal or outing with your student to strategize.
Any place and time your student will embrace. Give him the floor and listen. What are his ideas for summer? If, for instance, he’s bent on some travel and a steady job, great. Brainstorm how to make time for campus visits and test prep. If he plans to spend all of his time volunteering and writing college application essays, your job is to encourage more fun in the mix.
Plan on an hour or two and use this session to review our Checklist of Rising Senior Summer Goals together, setting some targets. This is not so you can take over or dictate the process, but you will presumably play a role. You and your student need to be on the same page in terms of expectations (especially financial expectations), timing (especially for travel) and deadlines.
2. Agree on a regular check-in time.
A constant stream of parent-initiated dialogue about college applications can be wearing, so limit discussion about college to one fixed time every, or every other week. This gives your student time and space to work on the process independently, with a reporting target to share progress and keep you in the loop.
3. Dispel the junior-year-is-hardest myth.
Remember after your first child came along, feeling astounded, even bitterly wronged because no one bothered to explain what this baby situation was going to entail? Seniors can feel like that too, having been told ad infinitum that junior year is hardest. For college-bound seniors, this may not be the case. In addition to taking difficult courses, they will be applying to college, a time-consuming process many liken to an AP course. Your student can make the fall semester easier and more enjoyable by getting some college application work out of the way over summer break. The essay is a great thing to tackle. Be clear with your senior on this point.
4. Volunteer? Work? Study? Camp?
Which summer activities bolster college applications? It’s hard to know what one admissions officer is going to value over another, so it’s best for your student to pursue authentic interests. There is a great deal of pressure to beef up the résumé over the summer, and it’s a good time to do just that. But synthetic do-gooding is easily discernible to college admissions officers. Your student should be true to herself in any and all activities. This makes them immensely more fun and meaningful, and that will come across in her applications and essays. You play an important role. You know your student, and can be an excellent sounding board in this department.
5. Be realistic about summer intensive programs.
If he is keen to enroll in a “prestigious” summer study program at one of his target schools and you can afford it, by all means sign up and send him. But know that his participation offers little or no admissions advantage, even if one is implied. The marketing department for summer programs is not the admissions department for incoming freshmen. While some colleges address this common misconception in their promotional materials, it isn’t always evident.
6. Encourage work and savings.
If you’re hesitating to encourage a plain old job, know that work is always looked upon favorably by admissions officers. Besides money, steady work generates responsibility and down-to-earth humility, pluses on any college campus. It’s a big bonus if the work experience is interest-aligned, or at least interest-revealing.
7. Remember to consider scholarships in the mix.
Many students preoccupied with applications don’t think to plan for scholarship applications. Summer is the right time to get that research underway. Many scholarships have spring deadlines, but some are due in the fall. You might help by identifying a list of potential scholarships for which your student can apply. Think local scholarships, interest- and need-based scholarships, academic, music and athletic scholarships. With a list and requirements in hand, your student can schedule time toward this effort.
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