Monday, March 4, 2013

What are you doing this summer?

It is definitely NOT too early to ask what you are doing this summer.
Some students are showing great responsibility by coming to the school counseling office to ask about references for a summer volunteer experience, or leads for a summer job, or recommendations for SAT prep programs. This is definitely the time to plan how you will spend those two months in the summer.
Let's discuss.

It should be clear by now that regardless of what grade you are in, you are expected to increase the level of rigor in your high school program from each year to the next. That said, you certainly deserve a break this summer, to recharge your mind, soul, and body. Nothing feels better to most of us than hanging out by (or in) the the nearest large body of water that we can find. Going out with your friends to get a snowball, Italian Ice, or ice cream is the stuff of many memories, so by all means, plan to enjoy your youth while you still can.

Realistically speaking, daily treats can get expensive and that much sugar probably isn't such a great idea, no matter how much exercise you get, unless you are Michael Phelps. So what else can you do with your time to keep your life moving toward your eventual college and career goals?

You can find examples of these and other summer opportunities at

For those who are at least 16 years old, welcome to the world of the potentially employed. There really is no trick to getting a job. Ask everyone you can find about if they know of anyone who is hiring (these tips are called "leads") and pursue those opportunities. Use your spring break and walk everywhere within a reasonable distance from your home and/or your parent/guardian's place of employment. When you enter a potential place of employment, politely and respectfully ask for the manager, assertively introduce yourself by first and last name, and ask the manager (or owner) if they are hiring. Whether they are or not, you should ask for an application, just in case things change. By presenting yourself in a mature manner, and introducing yourself, you make a lasting positive impression that they will hopefully remember. Take the job application home to complete. Complete it accurately and thoroughly with your (not your parent's) best handwriting, then promptly return the application to the business, ideally to the same person you met the first time. It may help to take a pencil with you to lightly write the name of the business on the job application so you don't get them confused. 
If you are not yet 16, don't expect much from the business world. Even though you are legally employable, most companies have rules about hiring under 16 (or even 18!). Don't lose hope, however, Teens at 14 or 15 can sometimes get jobs as a mother's helper or as an apprentice for a small and locally owned business.
It will help (or be necessary) if you aspire to babysit, lifeguard, or have any contact with children, to be certified in CPR and First Aid. You can find a certification class at area community centers by checking with the Red Cross or American Heart Association.
Unless you are paid by a family, you will need to obtain a work permit for your employer to keep on file. The process for completing this is to 1.) Download the form from the Maryland State Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. 2.) Complete your portion, your employer will need to complete their portion, and then ask your parent/guardian to sign it. 3.) Enter the required information at the website listed on the form and print the online receipt. 4.) Bring the completed form and the printed receipt to one of the secretaries at school. 5.) Take the completed form back to your employer to keep on file.

Money is nice to have, but you will have the rest of your life to work. Giving back to your community is an excellent way to pursue your values and support a cause that you believe in. In addition, you are required to complete 75 pre-approved student service learning hours as part of the requirements for a high school diploma. Ms. Slingland in room 209 hears about service learning opportunities every week and posts them on the bulletin board outside Room 120. You can also search the Baltimore County Volunteer website for other leads on service projects. Remember, in order for a service project to count on your school record, you need to have Ms. Slingland's preapproval, since he has to ensure that it meets MSDE guidelines.
Aside from thinking about graduation, volunteerism is a great way to show engagement in your surroundings with the eventual hope of admission to college or earning scholarships. Whatever service project you pursue, the most rewarding (both intrinsically and extrinsically) ones will be the ones that are meaningful to you, either due to your political or social values, or because they help you heal some earlier wound in your past, or help you "pay it forward."
Just watch for deadlines, since some volunteer programs have application and interview processes.

In addition to volunteering, having so much time during the work day allows you the chance to shadow a professional in a field you are considering for a career. This does not need to be a season-long event. Sometimes just a week will give you enough of an idea of how much (or how little!) you would enjoy a particular job. Some internships are paid, some require applications and interviews, so be sure you call ahead and make arrangements well in advance to ensure that this idea is permitted at any given work site.

All school year, you are assigned reading on a weekly basis, and the summer is the perfect opportunity to find literature that you really enjoy. Your comprehension skills will stay strong (or even grow), your vocabulary will strengthen, and your world will expand. All we suggest is that you choose books that are appropriate for your grade or reading level. High School students are not likely to be challenged by re-reading Harry Potter. Ask a librarian for suggestions, or use some suggestions from a simple web search.

Even though college campuses will be quite empty, if summer is the only time you can get on the road with your families, it is best to take advantage of an opportunity when one presents itself. You can use Smart College Visit to help you plan, but even a simple google map search will show you colleges in the area of any destination and you can schedule campus tours from the schools' websites. Take plenty of pictures and notes along your way, so that you can reflect upon your experience with your family and your school counselor to help you make informed decisions about a good college fit.
In addition to low-key visits, you can also pay for week-long and extended college programs that incorporate social opportunities and college tours, such as Summer Discovery

In fact, you can even incorporate your campus exploration into the chance to earn college credits. Most colleges have summer programs for high school students. The hard part is deciding which college you want to try and which summer program you want to pursue. This option is of particular benefit for the aspiring student athlete, since you have the chance to be mentored by college coaches in your chosen sport.

This is most beneficial for rising juniors and seniors, but it is an important task for college planning. Preparing for these tests can be achieved through any number of avenues, and the key is to find the method that makes sense for your own motivation and budget. You can use the free online access granted from your PSAT Score Report. You can pay $30-$50 for a book (or borrow one from the library) with practice tests and questions with some tutorials.  You can enroll in a course at the community college. You can take a course through (for example) Kaplan, Kumon, Sylvan, Huntington, or Princeton Review, or even find someone to tutor you individually.

However you spend your summer, after you get over that initial period of sleeping until noon, you will be looking for constructive and productive ways to spend your time. With as many as ten weeks away from school, this is a tremendous opportunity to create lasting memories. Make it a summer you won't regret.

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