Spring is on the horizon. Once again students and parents will have to choose what the best use of your child’s summer vacation will be. How can you get the most out of those 10 short weeks? How do you prepare your child for college life and beyond?
Finding the right experience developmentally for your child is a daunting process. Years ago there were very few choices for kids to enhance what is now known as the “college resume.” And in 2014, being near the top of a graduating class will only get you so far.
Soon it will be time for your child to leave home and you’ll wonder not only if they can succeed academically, but if they will be able to handle their newfound independence? Will they have the basic soft skills to succeed in the job market and as an adult?
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is a challenging time for young people – and their parents. There are many ways to plan your summer. College admissions departments and even parents are now realizing that depth of experience holds far more value than breadth. Here are our tips for making this decision.
1. Engage your child in every step of the process.
The most important aspect of choosing a program or destination for your child is finding out what inspires them. What do they really get excited about? What are their passions? What do they want to learn, explore, or accomplish? How does that mesh with your own goals for your child and family values? The answers to these questions will guide everything else.
2. Determine your top priority.
Examine those objectives in the context of your own goals for your child’s growth. If in the end your goals don’t match that of your child, you’re not done looking.
3. Look beyond the photos.
Strictly looking at programs on the internet can help you see options, but parents and students should go beyond pictures and bullet points to determine if the philosophy and culture of the program and its directors is consistent with your goals and your child’s goals for their summer.
Take the time, get to know the directors and spend time researching where you are going to send your child as you would if you were deciding on a preschool or a new car. Ask the tough, probing questions to determine consistent goals and philosophies for your child’s experience.
4. Search for the best experience developmentally, not the best vacation.
Look closely at the programming of the companies you research. Explore the extent of the experience, look at the days, components and depth of experience and the components that foster skills such as leadership, teamwork, independence, communication and problem solving. Listen for the genuine.These thoughtful programming elements will help your child succeed in arenas far beyond the high school hallways. These opportunities are crucial for a child’s success in navigating friendships, careers, relationships and ultimately independence.
Each year I am awed by my own childrens’ mastery of the world. They have skills I never dreamed of as a young adult. Navigating a crowded airport in a foreign country with another language, dealing with systems, customs, transportation, culture and currency– not to mention the confidence, leadership, cultural sensitivity, and ease of which they maneuver through these new experiences and opportunities. It takes my breath away.
If you do your homework, when your child returns home at the end of this summer they will be more independent, confident, and responsible. They will have a better understanding of the importance of relationships and how to find, choose and invest in the right ones. Hopefully they will have a deeper sense and understanding of the world – carved from first-hand experience. And, it will be one that’s not conveyed through media, Facebook, or Youtube clips.
Ultimately, they will be better decision makers and better prepared for life….what parent could ask for more from a summer experience?