You may think I am crazy, but guess what? Summer is right around the corner. “Yeah, right?” you think, but the truth of the matter is that summer is really not that far away. So aside from getting you to ponder life without school, I am actually pushing for the opposite. It’s time to start thinking about summer programs. “It’s too early!!!” you cry. But truth be told, now is the exact time to start thinking about what to do during those languid summer months.
Why is it important to start planning now? Competition is the main reason. Many summer programs have already released their applications and, specifically for highly competitive programs, it is best to get in early. So before moving on, let’s rehash some things mentioned in previous posts about this topic.
1. There is no benefit of attending a “prestigious” program for the purpose of future admission to that school. Here are the reasons why:
a. Future schools don’t care where you went. Schools are not impressed by other school’s programs, nor does attending the same school’s program benefit.
b. Future schools are more interested in what you did, why you chose that program and what you learned from it.
i. How did you change?
ii. How did you grow?
iii. What did you learn about the topic, and about yourself?
c. Be aware that a program in a school may not be run by the school, but by an outside group of teachers who rent the facilities. So while you are paying extra for the brand name, you may not be getting the same quality.
2. Do I have to do something related to my major, my career, or something else?
a. The answer is “yes” and “no”. Sometimes it is important to do something you are really interested in and want more experience learning about.
b. Sometimes being too focused can be limiting. Specialization is not always a good thing.
c. Branching out can be just as important since it provides a diverse experience.
d. Think about how you will challenge your self by learning something new rather than diving into something you already know. Look for broad connections.
3. Learning is not always limited to the classroom.
a. One of my sayings is “Education happens everywhere, all the time” and during the summer this is definitely an important consideration
b. Character building experiences like extended camping treks, community building projects, and service learning help build important values like persistence, resolve, and charity.
c. Applied learning helps students connect what they learn in the classroom to real world experiences.
There are many other things to consider when it comes to summer but it is time to start thinking about what kinds of things are available now. Don’t avoid obvious needs like learning more English. Please remember there is no substitute for learning English to improve performance on tests like TOEFL and IELTS. One thing for certain, staying home and studying for standardized tests like ACT, SSAT, SAT, TOEFL and IELTS is NOT a good use of time. While test prep companies love the income, when reviewing the student’s application schools will see this time spent studying as a lost opportunity for student growth. Think of how you will answer this question during the interview – “what did you do last summer?” If you can offer a great answer about the amazing experience you had it will be more well-received than a summer of test prep. This does not mean you have to build a nuclear reactor! Great experiences can include reading the Great Books, whitewater rafting for a month, doing service work for the underprivileged or creating something with friends.
Summer experiences do not have to be pre-organized, in other words, you do not need to pay a company to do something grand. Are you interested in creating something? Contact a school in the middle of nowhere, see what they may need – books, a new classroom, a summer program for English, etc… and start fundraising and collecting items to help that school achieve greater success. But, again, start now.
While summer is months away, it would be wise to start planning now. At te very least, think about the objectives you want to meet. As I have mentioned before, there are loads of programs but it is always good to plan ahead. Most importantly, time is a resource to either use or forfeit. Make use of this valuable time to grow and work towards being the best version of yourself, whatever that means to you. But remember, being uncomfortable in a new experience can provide a whole new perspective and help you understand what life means to you.