I have never heard of a college interview where this question was not asked in some form or another: “What did you do last summer?”
It seems like an off the cuff question and, because of this, your student may be tempted to give an equally casual answer. “Oh you know, hung around with my friends, played some video games, went to the beach a bunch, stuff like that.”
The college admissions officer will likely smile and move on to another topic. But, that type of answer will be noticed. (Hint: not in a good way!)
The summer represents an opportunity for your child to level the playing field. Grades, test scores and whether or not your family has the resources to send your child on an amazing volunteer trip need not come into play here. Everyone can find something to do in the summer that will be worth talking about in a college interview.
More important, it will genuinely move your child along on his/her path to maturity and increased self awareness.
I started talking about planning for summer many weeks ago with my students but I know there are still many teens who do not yet have a plan. It is not too late … it does take some work and persistence, though. I do find that this is an area where your child may need some encouragement and help brainstorming options, to think outside the box and to find an opportunity that feels worthwhile.
Summer activities can help your teenager learn about his or her strengths and weaknesses, and likes and dislikes. It can help increase independence, provide a sense of responsibility, develop an ability to interact with and accept feedback from people they do not know well, and even realize the consequences of not following through with commitments. A job, internship or volunteer experience is a great way to accomplish many of these goals.
Another good option is “shadowing” someone at their job. This is a good way to get out into the real world a bit and learn about various careers. Your child can ask questions about the person’s typical day, what they like and don’t like, what type of education is needed to get the job, etc.
Taking a class in an area of interest is another great way to explore possible future career possibilities and gain experience.
Ideally, your child will uncover something that he or she is passionate about and excited to pursue – either as a possible career focus or leisure activity. Having an area of intense interest can help a teen blossom and weather many of the less than positive experiences that they need to get through on their way through high school. Learning what they do not like can be just as important.
Either way, they will have something of substance to talk about when the college interviewer asks that inevitable question!