While Summer 2020 may be months away, it is not too early to begin planning for the season after the school year – some competitive teen programs have early deadlines, and some experiential programs will fill in the Fall. And as your teen grows older and more responsible, it stands to reason that they should have more agency in terms of choosing what direction to take when planning their summers. Of course, this isn’t to say that you should hand your high-schooler the reins entirely – otherwise they might opt for eight straight weeks of unstructured downtime – but it’s also vitally important to involve your teen in the decision making that goes into planning a summer experience. Engaging your teen in the summer planning process has several benefits – it teaches the value of proactive planning, helps them think critically about different options, and gets them more invested in the experiences they ultimately pursue. But as every parent knows, getting a teen to really take ownership of any process can be easier said than done – so here are a few ways you can involve your teen in the summer planning process.
Discuss Different Experiences
The summer programming landscape is vast, growing and changing every year, and your teen is unlikely to understand the scope of options that are available. When working with Everything Summer clients, we meet with each student to assess their interests and personality and to understand what kinds of opportunities will excite them.
Begin the conversation by getting a sense of the kinds of experiences they may be open to – do they want to do something academic, or something experiential? Do they want to get a traditional job, volunteer locally, or spend time on a summer program with other teens? What kinds of classes do they wish they could take?, What kinds of places do they wish they could visit? This is not a time to make any firm commitments, and it’s oftentimes possible for teens to combine multiple experiences. By having these conversations upfront and seeing which ideas resonate with your student, you will lay a foundation from which to explore and evaluate different summer experiences.
Given the multitude of pre-college summer options available to high-school students, it can be unrealistic to expect them to identify the right options by themselves. Once you have an idea of the kinds of experiences your teen is open to, identify a few options that might work. Then, present these options to your teen and see how they respond. Even if a student doesn’t gravitate towards these initial choices, this will likely spur them to discuss and/or research options that are more aligned with their interests.
Identifying options upfront also allows you to seamlessly set parameters – communicate your expectations as far as program length, location, content goals, and cost so that your student doesn’t spend time seeking out unrealistic experiences.
Don’t Force It
One trap that parents fall into is they try to force their teens into programs or experiences that will “look good” on a college application, even if their teen isn’t interested. However, with the exception of a few incredibly competitive programs, most summer experiences are viewed by college admissions teams in the scope of the student’s overall story and interests. This means, forcing your teen to spend a summer doing intensive debate or crew camp is unlikely to make an impact in the long run if they don’t ultimately pursue these interests. While it can be difficult, it’s vital to trust your student to pursue experiences that are meaningful to them – by doing this, they are more likely to develop real interests and passions that carry over into subsequent school years and summers, and that will ultimately impact their college applications. These are the experiences they will get the most out of, and that they will be able to talk about organically.
Summer is a crucial part of a teen’s development. In order to maximize a summer opportunity, it’s vital that a teen feel invested in their experience. Take these steps to involve your teen in the process of selecting a summer program. And if you want concierge, expert assistance in helping your teen identify meaningful summer opportunities that will resonate with their interests and set them up for success, reach out to Everything Summer and we’ll be more than happy to help.