Curing Employees' Summertime Blues: Summer Activities and College Admissions

When employees with children read an article about maximizing the summer with college admissions in mind, they generally have a few different reactions. Those with high school students may be thinking:

"Oh nomy son hasn't done anything of value with his summers off!"
"Wait, this is what colleges are expecting from my daughter?!"
Alarm bells also start going off for employees with younger children, who wonder:

"If this is what colleges are expecting now, how much more achievement will be required when my daughter is going through this?"
"How in the world am I going to help my son put together an interesting summer in a few years?"
Whatever the reaction, the end result is the same: increased stress and time away from work spent searching for resources to help relieve that stress. Your employees could try to ask their child's guidance counselor about ideas for summer, but that person is likely to be swamped with more pressing concerns. They could attempt to research options on their own, but there are so many that it will be tough for them to decipher what's appropriate and impactful and what is not.

Keeping Employees Focused: Approaching Summer Activities and College Admissions

Drawing on insight gleaned from years spent as senior admissions officers at some of the nation's most selective institutions, we at College Coach first help employees understand the basics of what colleges are actually expecting from students during their summers off (note: it varies, but rarely involves more school and never requires writing big checks to pay for expensive programs). We parse out some useful ways to spend a summer: community service, part-time jobs, intensive experiences in a particular area of interest, to name just a few. We talk through the benefits of volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in the local community versus spending $4,000 so that their children can build houses in Costa Rica, and how colleges might view each of these experiences very differently.

We also discuss the drawbacks of doing everything with only college admissions in mind, the importance of balancing work with fun and the negative implications of students doing things that don't interest them and have no connection to their ultimate aspirations.

More Importantly, Who is the Employee's Child?

Then, and most importantly, we dig into who their children really are. What is his current grade level? What does she enjoy doing? What kind of college does he hope to attend? What has she done during previous summers? Once we have a better understanding of the child, we can help the employee and his or her child figure out the best path for that student, whether scooping ice cream for 20 hours a week, interning at a local business, doing research in a lab or some other activity that fits the student's goals.

Help from the College Experts for Employee Families

Whether through a personalized assistance session or an answer to a help desk question, College Coach helps relieve the stress associated with planning students' summers and all elements of the applying to college. Once employees realize they have a group of experts available to answer the questions that come up as their children go through the college admissions process, they can refocus on their work, knowing that experienced assistance will be there when they need it most. And, perhaps more importantly, their kids can truly enjoy their summers.

Written by: Elizabeth Heaton

About the Author

As Vice President, Educational Consulting, College Coach, Elizabeth Heaton leads Bright Horizons Education & College Advising's strategic marketing efforts and is responsible for partnerships and new product development. She also oversees manages both the retail sales team and a team of . expert advistors. Elizabeth began her admissions career at the University of Pennsylvania, where she chaired university selection committees, evaluated potential athletic recruits as one of the school’s athletics liaisons, and oversaw the university’s portfolio of admissions publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Cornell University and is a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counseling.