What Should Students Do About Summer?

After a hectic end to the school year, students may be disappointed to find that COVID-19 is also disrupting their summer plans.

Many traditional summer programs and activities—camps, athletics, travel, on-campus courses—are being cancelled, while internships and job opportunities are limited. This can be a real bummer for students and a cause of concern for parents (especially if a student hasn’t been all that engaged in the new “school at home” world). Is summer a wash, too?!

Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to have an enriching summer. We often encourage students to “think outside the box” when it comes to summer activities; this year, current circumstances demand creative thinking. This presents a great opportunity for kids to pursue their passions while demonstrating their ability to hustle and be proactive.

Summer is approaching quickly, and we still can’t predict when we might be able to leave our homes or stop social distancing. Therefore, we recommend that students plan for summer activities that they can pursue from home. These activities fall into two major categories (although they do overlap): online programming and independent projects.

Take Activities Online

Like much of the rest of the world, many summer programs are altering their content to fit an online format. Before your student completely gives up on whatever they had planned, you may want to explore the possibility of virtual programming.

Online programs are everywhere. Colleges will be offering summer terms online: check out this list of programs from the International Association for College Admissions Counseling, this informal list created by IACAC members, and this list by Teen Life. Note that you may need to visit websites for individual programs for the latest updates and information.

There are also an infinite number of online courses—both academic and creative—on free or low-cost platforms, including:

What about jobs and internships? With the state of the economy, we expect the current job market to be tough for high school students. Additionally, many entry-level jobs are not conducive to working from home. However, that doesn’t mean finding work or an internship is an impossible. If you are committed to a workplace experience this summer, you may be able to find some remote options.

Pursue Independent Projects

Students can also consider independent projects and activities, which may be more appealing during a time of social distancing. Creative projects have always been available but are often overlooked for “flashier” structured programs.

Here are a few examples of creative independent projects:

    • Learn to play a new instrument
    • Refinish a piece of furniture
    • Cook a new recipe each week
    • Build a website

Projects may be creative or technical, skill-building or culminating in a final result. If you choose this kind of activity, it’s helpful to find some way to capture or track your efforts and any end products (as this may make a compelling narrative in college applications).

How to Choose?

Once you start considering the options, the choices can be dizzying! We recommend taking a strategic approach, starting with determining some goals. Start by answering the following questions:

    • What skills or experiences were you hoping to get from your original summer plans?
    • What skills or knowledge would be awesome to have, either for the next school year or for life in general?
    • What do you really enjoy and want to explore further (even if it’s not tied directly to a career path)?

Once you’ve come up with your answers, get together with a parent and brainstorm some creative ways to accomplish those goals. The path may involve a combination of structured and independent activities, which is a great way to build proactive planning skills and confidence.

Some sample ideas:

    • Start with a course or two on a subject you are interested in, and develop an independent project out of something you learn in those courses (e.g., take art history and painting courses, then create a painting series)
    • Build foundational knowledge through a course or reading list developed in conjunction with a teacher or other mentor (like a tutor, or a family friend who has some particular expertise in a field the student is interested in).
    • Look online for volunteer opportunities with local or national organizations.
    • Work with friends (from afar) on a collaborative project.
    • Check local institutions (universities, museums, libraries) and sites like UpWork or TaskRabbit for research, internship, or job opportunities related to your academic or career interests.

This summer may look different, but it’s far from a lost cause! If you need help figuring out what to do and/or how to do it, reach out to us for help! We’re happy to talk through your options, and our tutors (most MA and PhD students themselves) are amazing mentors for creative projects and independent studies. Contact us at info@signeteducation.com or 617-714-5262.

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

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