Making the most of summer vacation months should no longer be considered optional for serious high school and (especially) college students. Nowadays, it’s increasingly important to carefully and thoughtfully use summers preceeding grades 10-16 to gain valuable work experience, do job and career research, and/or build work-related skills that will help students stand out when applying for highly competitive internships and other valuable academic and professional opportunities.
Initially, in high school, almost any job will do. But as time goes on, try to focus on significant internships in careers you find intriguing. Use these work experiences to build your resume as you check out interesting fields from the inside, narrowing the list to a few good options before you begin college. Showing this initiative early on will make your college applications stand out, help you make the right choice of college major, and put you well ahead of the pack when applying for important college internships.
Haven’t found a great summer job or internship? No problem!
Learn Excel. Gain CPR and first aid certification. Earn a Python coding credit. Contact professors at local colleges and ask if you can assist them in their research.
The test is this:
The proposed summer activity should be significant and targeted enough to stand out as a useful line on your resume.
*Note: NTAs (Non-Teenage Activities) earn extra credit; these are activities not normally done by teenagers (e.g. professional skills certification, research with local professors, significant leadership or business experiences, etc.).
The bad news is that American students no longer rank head and shoulders above students from other countries in terms of educational, economic, and career opportunities. International competition is stiff, and unstructured, playful summers after middle school are a thing of the past for forward-thinking American teenagers.
The good news is that this isn’t really bad news. "Competition" can be energizing. “Fun” is at least half attitude. Even the most mundane chores can seen as fun, and done with alacrity, from the right point of view and with the proper attitude. Well-crafted, productive summers can be fascinating, purposeful, life-changing experiences.
Starting in high school, finding and completing meaningful summer work and career development experiences can be as at least as interesting and invigorating as most things most students actually do during summers off.
"The early bird catches the worm," and many are the advantages for enterprising students disciplined enough to get an early start on life goals.