High-school students today are as driven as ever – many boast resumes peppered with AP classes and leadership commitments that would put their parents’ high-school selves to shame – and yet, these hyper-prepared teens are struggling at an unprecedented rate once they arrive on campus. And while some of their challenges may be academic – including challenges with time management, and an increased emphasis on writing – many students are simply struggling with the general transition to college life. More specifically, the transition to college life will inevitably push teens outside their comfort zones, and many teens are struggling to cope with being uncomfortable.
For parents, watching a child struggle with this anxiety can be extremely difficult, and they may be tempted to give into this request even if they do not plan to follow through. And if this one simple promise can help alleviate a child’s anxiety before they depart, and you’re confident they will enjoy their experience, then there shouldn’t be any harm in agreeing, right?
The transition from high school to college can be a challenge for even the best-prepared students. In addition to being thrust into a completely different social environment, adapting to group living, and assuming entirely new levels of independence, students must also contend with the leap to college academia – tackling much more rigorous coursework, more collaborative classes, and elevated academic expectations. Not to mention needing to master time management. Of course, there is no surefire way to ensure collegiate success – but for students who are seeking to simulate or try out in advance the college experience, summers spent on pre-college programs are great ways to prepare to tackle all that this new chapter has to offer.
Summer is an incredible time for having the experiences you will ultimately write about in your college essays. However, when a student describes these shared experiences in a college essay, they can do so in a way that causes them to blend into, rather than stand out from, the rest of the application pool – and if they leave an impression, it very well might be negative. Of course, this doesn’t mean that students should avoid writing about their summer experiences – summer can provide incredible fodder for essays.
So what can you do to avoid a clichéd essay?
One of the hardest lessons we all have to learn at some point or another is also one of the simplest: people can be mean. For many of us, adolescence and the teenage years served as the crux of this experience – pranks and meanspirited jokes abounded, and exclusion ran rampant. I certainly remember many instances during these times when I felt picked on – and I also remember other occasions where I was the bully in a given interaction, relishing another’s discomfort.
Even though exclusionary or bullying behavior may be normalized among adolescents, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have lasting impact – and just because something appears to be accepted, that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be altered.
One reason that summer is such an important time for kids and teens alike is that it provides a structure for kids and teens to take on this agency, and exercise their decision making muscles in a safe and structured environment.
Here’s the thing: you can’t fake who you are – the years leading up to the admissions process are long, the admissions process is grueling, and a college will ultimately be able to sense whether a student’s passions and commitments are genuine or forced. ou may not be a cellist or scientist; you also may not be a community leader, chess-master, musical whistler, or one of the other myriad high-schoolers who seem to have luckily stumbled upon the niche of their passion. However, if you have genuine interests and explore them earnestly, you will find that you will quickly become the most compelling – and most importantly, happiest – version of yourself. And when it’s all said and done, being yourself is more than enough.
Why do we emphasize skill building at camp? The answer is simple: because it’s good for the kids.
I will never forget the exhilaration I felt when, at age twenty, I stepped into a chaotic Roman intersection, extended one arm in my best imitation of a Heisman pose, and – shouting over my shoulder at my thoroughly dismayed family – explained, “You have to establish yourself in the crosswalk”.
For the very first time in my life-long relationship with my parents, I had acted as the resident expert.
Leaving your comfort zone to experience and learning new things ultimately makes you a more well-rounded person. There is no doubt that people are at ease when they are at home, or in other familiar situations. But as the saying goes – nothing ventured, nothing gained.