It may have taken some hard work convincing my students to attend a camp, job shadow, or take a class over the summer, but ALL of them were thankful they did in the end. Why do I ask them to trade in their sleeping for work? The simple answer is DISCOVERY.
At a time when students feel pressured to pick their career/course of study even before their senior year, exploration and self-discovery opportunities are important. Although you may not come out of summer with an exact plan, you will at least have a clearer picture of what you want.
Students often come to me having a long list of occupations they are interested in pursuing and they feel lost. I am not talking about a list of jobs all in the same field, I am talking about things all over the board (think dog trainer/accountant/PA all at once)! Where do you start? How can you possibly figure out what you want to do at the young age of 16 or 17? The answer is not simple, in fact there isn’t that ONE thing you can do to make that decision. However, there are things you can do to help.
Summer camps, particularly those offered at college campuses give students the opportunity to explore a subject they are interested in as well as experience a bit of campus life. You often get to sleep in dorms, eat in the cafeterias, use the campus labs and classrooms, and meet professors. You get the chance to explore a subject you may not have had in high school or at least not enough of to make a decision on college majors. Loving your one year of HS biology is hardly enough to bet your future on!Whether or not you decide you loved what you did at camp, at least you will be one step closer to knowing what you want or do not want to do. You will also have some more ideas about what qualities you want in their future college. Better food, bigger labs, single dorms, residential campus, urban location…? These are all things that could be discovered at a summer program on campus.
If not a camp, how about some job shadowing? For nearly any occupation you may be interested in, your parents, neighbors, or friends probably have a connection in that field. Reach out and ask about the possibility of a day or even a week of shadowing. The worst they can do is say no. This is your chance to get a glimpse behind the scenes and see the good, bad, and ugly of the job. You thought you wanted to be a nurse but got squeamish seeing blood? You thought you wanted to work in a lab, but got tired of being stuck in the same room all day without much human interaction? You thought you wanted to be an accountant, but it turns out you don’t want to deal with numbers and computers all day? You thought you wanted to be a teacher, but it turns out you don’t even like kids that much? These are all things you could discover through job shadowing or interning somewhere. These are all things you want to discover before you spend 4 years studying!
Volunteering at local organizations is another way to help you explore your interests. Not only do you get to see what these organizations do, you get the chance to give back to the community. I have had students go on volunteer missions and come back knowing exactly what they want to do. Of course this is not going to happen for everyone, but at least you are doing something good along the way.
I am not a fan of resume padding and doing something just because you think it makes you look good. Do it because it is a chance for you to explore your options and discover an interest you did not know you had. Do it because if not now, when? If you already think you know what you want to do, explore it some more anyway. In this case, you are demonstrating your passion to your future college too. They love to see someone who actually knows what they want!
Don’t let the expenses and loss of summer break freedom sway you, these opportunities may indeed prove to be priceless. Use your summer wisely and you won’t regret it.