How to take a power break
Summer is just around the corner and students everywhere are starting to make plans for how to spend their free time. While younger kids can still get away with lazy days of sleeping late and maybe a fun family holiday, students who are in 9th to 11th standard should be finding ways to spend their summer more productively.
There are basically three main options for planning a unique summer – internships, structured summer programs (e.g. summer schools or summer institutes), or social service. And of course, on top of any of these, there is likely to be some academic preparation mixed in – e.g. SAT prep
If you think finding an internship will help enhance your profile then start networking with friends and family to find an opportunity. Students often think they need to work in a prestigious firm or shadow a high ranking executive or official, but they don’t. All that matters is that you are spending time learning. And learning doesn’t always mean that you are gaining skills and interests – you could also be learning what you do NOT like, which is equally valuable. One student I knew spent a month of her summer helping out at an advertising agency, and realized that creative fields were not her cup of tea. She naturally gravitated more toward the account management issues in the industry and learned that she enjoyed working in a structured environment.
Many students look to summer programs abroad as their first step toward independence. Whether you are inclined toward spending your time in a six-week sports training camp on a US campus or whether you’d rather be experiencing world class labs of US research university through physics summer school, there is practically a summer program out there to suit every interest. Indeed residential summer programs are a big business in America, so if you have this plan in your sights, be sure to do your research and find the programs that can offer you good value for your money. But always remember, no summer program can guarantee admissions into top-ranked colleges, everything is just a stepping-stone to giving you better and broader experiences. For example students interested in business who may not be getting enough exposure in their current school can spend two weeks at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business through the Knowledge at Wharton Global Young Leader’s Academy (the local partner is BrainGain Magazine http://wharton.braingainmag.com/). This program is a taster for students who want to explore both academic and hands-on business studies with global peers in a world-class environment. This is only one example of the many exciting offerings out there, but do remember that the deadlines come up around this time of year (some have already passed) so make sure you check on the application process sooner rather than later.
Finally, a lot of students spend the summer extending social service or charity projects with which they are already involved during the school year. While nobody should feel that they must engage in social service, if you have a genuine desire in this area then summer is the right time to do more and make a deeper contribution to the cause. Similar to internships and summer programs, increasing social service helps to enhance your profile as a college applicant not necessarily on the face of it, rather because it makes you more self-aware and gives you a perspective on what matters to you and how you want to pursue it.
There is no right summer activity for everyone and if deepening an interest in social service or arts or sports feels natural to you, then by all means do it, but spend time researching options so that you are making informed choices. Don’t wait for just any opportunity to come your way, pursue those that are meaningful to you. Think of summer not as a time to escape the pressures of the school year, but rather as a time to enhance your engagement with what you really enjoy during busy school months and take it a step further for your own enrichment.