I know all too well that parents are a bit frantic about creating that ‘ideal’ summer plan for their high school juniors and seniors. My suggestion? Pace yourself! As the school year ends you may have a host of wonderful ideas … spending weeks upon weeks visiting colleges, making sure your son or daughter has an amazing summer experience/job for that stupendous college essay, and quality time spent with the entire family.
Here’s my reality check: Don’t go crazy planning a jam –packed summer. Rather, find the ‘sweet spot’-- that wonderful balance that works for your clan. How many teens want to spend lots of quality time with their family? How many want to spend months college hunting?
If the college search is on your summer ‘to do” list, I’d suggest that you carve out a bit of time for college visits, (understanding that the summer months don’t always give you a comprehensive view of a college or university because they are not in session) but I can guarantee that you don’t want your entire summer consumed with college ‘stuff’. Neither of my children were able to visit colleges in the summer months because they had commitments that precluded road trips. We fit in college visits during school breaks during the academic year. Do what is best for your family and don’t over think it. The idea is to visit colleges and universities so students can get a sense of place and space, gather information that you may not glean from the internet and literature. See if you can capture the personality of a school and a sense of fit for your daughter or son.
For the parent of the reluctant college search student you may need to take the lead in arranging a reasonable summer college visit plan – expose your child to a host of college/university options close to home (no need to travel great distances if he/she has no idea of what college is all about). Once your son or daughter begins to have an opinion on the kind of schools that seem to be a match, then expand your search. We found that once our son and daughter got into the college search ‘rhythm’ they were quickly able to discern colleges or universities that were a fit. After a series of visits they both had instances where they were able to immediately dismiss schools (even prior to the campus tour --we actually went into the visitors’ center to let the school know that we wouldn’t be spending time on campus after all).
For the parent of the “Type A” highly motivated college searcher, let your son or daughter take the reins. Encourage them to do the research and plan college visits that work into your family budget and timeframe. These students may be able to visit a few schools on their own if you can’t get away from work or other commitments (it’s okay!). In some cases you may have to pull these students back to make sure that their summer schedule has time for other pursuits – and balance.
Encourage your son or daughter to have a productive summer (work, volunteer, travel, and/or, time spent with family) but don’t obsess about it. My colleague Meghan McHale has recently posted a wonderful blog for students about summer planning. Check it out!
Ultimately the summer should be about growing, exploring, connecting and relaxing. For some students, having a unique summer opportunity is exactly what they need in order to return to high school in the fall refreshed and fired up for another academic year. Please don’t plan summer engagements based on how they will look on a college application – students should pursue their sincere interests and available opportunities that are realistic. Many students need to work and those life experiences and challenges are very valuable. For other students, taking time to make headway on their college search is exactly how they want to spend some of the summer. For every family the decisions on summer planning must be personal and practical – do what is best for your family. And be sure to take time to enjoy each other – the kids will be in college before you know it!