College Matters: Summer is a time for new experiences

Allison Matlack

Summer opportunities abound for high school students; it can be the perfect time to take classes, explore career interests, hone athletic skills or become involved in volunteer work.

As with all extracurricular activities, how students choose to spend their vacation time reveals a great deal about their passions, talents and leadership skills. Students should carefully choose what it is that they want to do with an eye not toward "resume building" but to finding fulfilling experiences that will nurture their passions and allow them to pursue their interests.

For those academics who would like to move ahead in their coursework or to take a class that isn't offered at their high school, many independent schools and colleges offer summer sessions. Through these programs, students can take classes in subjects ranging from calculus to archeology to glass blowing. Independent schools, vocational schools and colleges offer courses for high school students ranging from single course options to full residential programs.

For those students who are more career-focused, the 10 weeks of summer provide a unique opportunity to explore interests through internships. Besides lending credibility to a resume, a summer internship is the best way to learn more about a specific career.

For those with a more entrepreneurial spirit, the summer months allow time to run a small business mowing grass, selling handmade T-shirts or running a dog-walking business. The organizational, leadership and executive skills that are required to run a successful business are especially alluring to colleges as well as to future employers.

Volunteering is another way to explore career interests and develop skills while helping others. For students who want to combine work with travel there are several groups that organize volunteer opportunities overseas. Rather than giving an hour or so of time each week over the course of the year, a focused volunteer effort in the summer can lead to a more meaningful and rewarding experience.

Many students enroll in programs overseas where they do any combination of study, travel, language immersion and/or volunteer work. For many, this is their first time traveling without their family, so the rewards of overcoming the challenges of learning how to adapt to and appreciate the traditions and routines of another culture are profound.

For the athlete, sports camps are offered at many independent schools and universities and provide a tremendous opportunity not only to train with some of the best coaches in the country but also to take advantage of state-of-the-art athletic facilities. If you plan to be a college athlete, attend camps where the coaches from the colleges you are interested in applying to will be in attendance.

While summer provides myriad opportunities to explore one's interests and passions, it is important to plan ahead as many of these camps and programs will enroll quickly.

And be sure to leave plenty of time for recreation and renewal!

Tim Lee and Allison Matlack are educational consultants at AHP Educational Consulting in Sudbury, Mass. For more than 30 years, AHP has guided students through the college search and application process. For more information, call 978-443-0055 or visit