summer programs

It’s Time To Start Thinking About Summer Programs for High Schoolers

There are so many ways for high school students to take advantage of summer programs. They can range from trips abroad to experiences in your nearby town. But many require applications and those deadlines are approaching. Here is a list of several interesting programs that have popped up on our radar lately.

Seeds of Peace 

This notable program begins in Maine and expands around the world. The idea is to foster leadership in young adults by bringing together students from all walks of life to discuss global issues. This is a tough program to get into and requires a writing based application. But from what I hear, students make life long friends from around the globe.

National Geographic Student Expositions

National Geographic offers destination programs that may or may not involve community service. Their website is inspiring and trips range from 11 to 21 days. Your student could do community service in Madagascar or focus on photography in New York City. And lots of other options in between.

Global Routes

This program is specifically service driven where students spend time in small communities around the world whether it be constructing schools and health clinics in rural areas or cleaning up streams in the rain forest. The program promotes cross-cultural learning and hands on experience.

Teton Valley Ranch Camp 

I have heard wonderful things about Teton Valley Ranch Camp in beautiful Dubois, Wyoming. A chance to spend the summer in the wilderness working on a horse ranch (ages 11-16).

California Summer State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)

My son and daughter both attended this in-state program taught by professionals in the arts. Drama and dance in their cases. It was a great chance for my kids to experience college life while being an hour from home. They stayed all week in dorms at Cal Arts and opted to come home for weekends. As a California resident the tuition was subsidized and super affordable for this four week program.

Girls Who Code

This program is a free 7-week immersion program for girls in 10th and 11th grade. The program has locations in most of the major cities in the United States and requires an application. There are lots of hands-on computer science classes as well as field trips to local tech companies.

College Transitions has an extensive article with a multitude of interesting summer programs for teens from Bank of America Student Leaders Programs to U.S. Naval Academy summer programs. Be sure to spend some time looking at some of these other programs too.

But if your teen doesn’t want to leave home this summer there are are many opportunities in their own back yards. Check out the following places for local classes near you:

Public Library, Local Art museums, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s and Local language centers. Universities in a city near you offer teen summer programs in various majors as well.

And don’t forget about community college classes. Teens can sign up for those and take care of some high school credits, get a jump start on college credits and also enjoy enrichment classes.

Are Summer Programs Important for College Admissions?

My son’s college advisor told the sophomore class that what they do this summer will be looked at seriously by college admissions directors. Admissions directors see summer as a continuation of your student’s learning and expect them to take advantage of this time. So no lazy summers!

Colleges want to see that your student is either taking a summer course, doing an internship or has a summer job. I am happy to see three choices because summer courses can be expensive and not available to everyone. Most colleges and universities offer courses to high school students and allow them to stay in the dorms. NYU, for example, has a great selection of very appealing courses for high schoolers but they range from $3,000-$7,000 per student plus airfare and expenses. Sometimes junior colleges offer classes to high school students. The local JC in our area offer these classes for free.

Internships are a wonderful way for students to gain job experience as well as work in a field they are interested in. My daughter did an internship the summer before her senior year and her supervisor wound up writing a letter of recommendation for her college application. My daughter also found that on college interviews discussing her internships was a comfortable way to talk about herself and interests.

One thing I keep hearing from college counselors is that colleges want to see consistency. If your child goes the summer job route, then perhaps going back to that same place of employment each summer and maybe advancing in responsibilities or hours will show rigor and commitment.

If none of these options work for your child, if it’s too late to sign up for a course or maybe you are spending the summer with family out of state, then perhaps your student could write about their summer experience. Maybe they could blog about their experiences and their new environment. Or offer to write an article for the local newspaper. Even create a photography portfolio. Just see that they follow up the following summer, so when it comes time to apply to college, they will have a body of work to show.

Teenagers have lots of energy and when used wisely, they can produce a lot of great content. Sure they need to study for SAT’s but summer doesn’t have to be all about test prep, nor should it be. And a lazy afternoon once in awhile is probably a good idea too.

You have Made Your College Decision. Now How Best to Spend the Summer.

May first is College Admissions Day and now finally parents and students should be able to breathe. What a tremendous year it’s been. I am exhausted. Between travel and financial aid forms and emotions and decisions, it’s taken the best of me. But now that the decision has been made and the deposit paid, I can start to feel myself relax. A bit. But what happens next? It’s finally time for our family to begin planning for the summer. Taking into consideration what date college begins and how much money we can afford to spend.

When I asked my daughter what she wanted to do this summer she spelled her answer, “R-E-L-A-X”. I can’t blame her. But she will also get a summer job, hopefully something she can enjoy and save some money. And a little travel. Her dad spent the year before he went to college reading, all day, every day. He hopes she’ll do the same.

But what other summer options are out there? Several colleges offer incoming students a chance to start school this summer to become acquainted with the campus and to take one or two classes. There are summer programs available in the arts and sciences. And I know some students who are going back to the summer camps they attended as kids as counselors.

One parent of a college freshman told me the other day to take the family on vacation and take lots of pictures, “this will be the last time you are all together.” But does it have to be so dramatic? I hope not. I hope we can still take family vacations together. And perhaps if our students spend a semester abroad we could meet up with them before they head back to the states.

It can be daunting to think that this is the last time our family will be altogether. But at least for the freshman year, I like to think of it as extended summer camp. They’ll go away for three months and come home, then away for another three months and come home. At least I’ll try to keep that analogy going as long as I can. But right now I am relieved that we know where our daughter will be in the fall and can focus on the present as long as it lasts.

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