For many students, the extended break from school during the summer months all too often presents a pause in their forward momentum between school years. However, these summer months can provide some of the most productive opportunities for college and career planning and experiences as students are unfettered by the schedules and demands of the school year.
The summer months offer students with open time to explore options and passions, gain real world experiences, and get organized and prepared for the following school year. Each year of high school has vital components for college and career preparation and planning–from meeting certain course requisites, to taking relevant tests, to applying for scholarships and admissions. Using the summer months to continue the progress between school years and to take time to ensure thoughtful and intentional decision-making as the next year approaches can be incredibly beneficial for students.
Though the end of the school year still feels far away, counselors and educators can help students make the most of their summer months by encouraging them to begin thinking and planning now. Share these resources and ideas with students to help inform and guide their summer months.
Hands-on experiences are one of the very best ways students can explore whether a career, field, or type of job might be a good fit for them or something they want to explore further. There are many ways high school students can get these kinds of opportunities during the summer months.
- Internships or Job Shadowing: Encourage students to connect with local businesses and organizations to identify possible internships or job shadowing opportunities. Counselors might brainstorm with students various job sites that match their interests and passions or help make connections between businesses and students. Chegg Internships offer a national database of internships for high school students that can be filtered by experience level and compensation with helpful information about obtaining an internship, completing an application, preparing for a successful interview, and writing cover letters. Forage provides free, self-paced, virtual internships for high school students that help them explore different career options. Each opportunity lasts 5-6 hours and allows students to learn about a variety of career paths. SchooLinks curates internship openings from national sources and allows districts to upload local, relevant opportunities for students.
- Volunteer Opportunities: The summer is a great time for students to volunteer with local organizations to explore interests and passions, get a flavor for what different jobs might entail, expand experience that can be included on their resume, connect with others, and contribute to their community. Any given municipality has a variety of appropriate volunteer opportunities for high school students including museums, libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, camps, and parks. Encourage students to reach out to organizations on their own or visit DoSomething.org, a site that helps students find volunteer opportunities, filtered by location and cause they are interested in helping.
College Exploration, Research, and Planning
The summer can be a great time for visiting college campuses, researching potential options, beginning to compile relevant materials for applications, and mapping a timeline for future steps—all to help students avoid feelings of stress or crisis as deadlines approach.
- Campus Visits and Connections: Encourage students – even as young as freshmen – to find ways to visit potential colleges in-person either locally or as part of a summer vacation trip. Students can also take virtual tours or connect via videoconference with an admissions representative or someone from an alumni group. These first-hand experiences and connections can help students gain a sense of the college environment and help them determine if a particular school might be a good fit. Students might even consider taking a college course over the summer – either online or in-person – to explore subject matter, gain a better understanding of the rigor, and begin to earn college credits.
- Organizing and Preparing Relevant Materials: Summer can be a low-pressure time for students to draft essays to be used on admissions and scholarship applications, ask for letters of recommendation, build a resume, and compile relevant portfolios of work. Have students make a list of what they might need and encourage them to get started promptly as these types of tasks can be incredibly time consuming and often require additional support. Communicate any school-based or district-based resources that might help support this work or share exemplars to serve as models.
- Financial Preparedness: Most students require a combination of financial aid and scholarships to pay for college. Many scholarship and grant applications require a large amount of documentation and materials and have deadlines early in the school year. Students should use the summer months to explore websites or local resources to search for potential scholarship opportunities. For instance, you might invite students to visit Scholarships.com, a database that includes more than 3.7 million college scholarships and grants and allows students to search for scholarships based on eligibility, application requirements, and award amount. You can also encourage rising seniors to make sure they are prepared to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is necessary for students to be eligible for any federal assistance. For students to learn more about the timeline and process for completing FAFSA, they can visit the US government site on FAFSA completion.
To provide students with comprehensive support over the summer and the school year, consider using a college and career platform, such as SchooLinks, that allows students to search for colleges, engage in career exploration, find internships, catalog transcripts and letters of recommendation, connect with scholarship opportunities, and stay on track to meet their college and career goals.
Check out how SchooLinks can support your district's college and career readiness goals.