The average college student changes majors three times before they graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s not the end of the world but it consumes your time and money – two things we don’t want to waste.
My college bound daughter is completing her junior year in high school and I’ve been particularly focused on helping her find summer programs for the past few months. My primary purpose is to help her make an informed decision about a college major.
Some students have known since they were 5 years old what they want to be when they grow up but that’s not the case for everyone. And guess what, it’s okay. There’s no pressure to be 100% certain of her major at 17 but I believe she should begin to get a good feel for her interests. I don’t want to hear “I don’t know” anymore. It’s time to change the script. With my support and some exposure, she’s narrowed it down to Chemical Engineering and Business.
There are a number of factors that must be considered before applying to a summer program. I’ve listed some tips below from a parent perspective that I hope you find helpful.
Visit The Guidance Counselor
Encourage students to see their guidance counselor to find out about resources designed to help them flush out their interests and abilities. Many schools have on-line interest inventories or questionnaires that help students to clarify their likes and dislikes as well as translate those preferences to a job or career.
Identify An Area of Interest
Look for programs that support your students area of interest. You’d be surprised by all the options out there. There are many subject specific programs in a variety of settings. Summer programs are also great recruiting tools for colleges and universities.
Use Multiple Resources To Find Summer Programs
- Google is always a great place to start. Google summer programs in your area for specific grade levels and fields like Engineering, English, Business and Science.
- Check with your local school district. Contact the school counselor.
- Check your local newspaper.
- Contact local colleges and universities. Call and visit their websites.
- Word of mouth also works well. Put it out there that you are looking for academic or leadership summer programs.
Qualifications Of The Staff
We want to be certain our students are left in good hands with qualified people. It’s important to ask about their training and the reputation of the program.
Type of Program
Some programs are designed to introduce students to specific fields as well as provide exposure to college level courses. Pre-College programs tend to be competitive only selecting high achievers who are ready for college level coursework. These programs tend to be 4-6 weeks or longer. Application materials may include reference letters, transcripts, ACT and/or SAT scores and an essay.
Residential Or Non-Residential
There are a variety of programs out there including full day, half day, and residential. Many of the programs are on a college campus for a week or more. Overnight programs offer an opportunity to experience college life, and live with a roommate on campus. You and your student will have to decide if they are ready to be away from home for an extended period of time.
It’s best to begin investigating early. We usually begin looking in January. Most programs require an application with supporting documents. Give yourself time to ask for letters of recommendation if needed. Some deadlines are even as early as February. Make a list of programs and be sure to keep track of deadlines.
Some programs require a fee and others do not. Programs that do not require a fee tend to be even more competitive. We’ve encountered week-long programs on campus in the residence halls with meals included for $350 and up. In some cases, financial help is available. Some corporations like Procter and Gamble offer a week-long full day program including transportation at no cost.
Transportation and Distance
Daily transportation and time of day is something to consider especially for working parents. How will they get there and back everyday? Is the student ready to be away from home overnight? Is traveling to a program out-of-state an option? We have close family in Pennsylvania, so I always look there as well to see what is offered.
There are gender specific programs geared towards young women and young men in fields like engineering and business. My daughter participated in the Lindner College of Business Summer Institute for Emerging Women Leaders last summer at University of Cincinnati. It was an empowering program and she made some lasting friendships.
There are countless options out there. Whenever possible, I think high school students should take advantage of these opportunities but it’s important to find the right fit. Some students may need help managing the deadlines and requirements. It gets them ready for the college application process.
Experiences like these help students to refine their interests and who wouldn’t want to do that. The more you know, the more you grow.
Peace and Blessings,