This article by Tony Di Giacomo Ph.D. originally appeared on River Journal Online
As temperatures drop and the snow continues to fall, it can be challenging to think ahead and start to actively plan the exciting activities upon which you may hope to embark come summer break. What might feel like eons away is actually closer than most students realize. Setting aside the time and effort now to brainstorm your goals and intentions for the summer months can prevent the scrambling stress that so often overwhelms students and families once the sunshine and warmth finally begin to return.
Whether it’s registering for a formal pre-college course at a university of interest, going to camp, finding an internship or job, signing up for a local coding bootcamp or art class, exploring the great outdoors, or a little of each, there are plenty of options and opportunities awaiting students outside of the school walls. The key, as with college planning, is taking the time to determine which path to take and how best to get there.
Which Path to Take
Before submitting 20 different applications to internships or pre-college experiences, we encourage students to use this time to deeply reflect on and consider their objectives for the summer. How would I like to enrich my summer break and make the most of my time? What passions am I looking to develop further? What existing skills am I hoping to sharpen? What new skills am I looking to explore? Reflecting and discussing these core questions with a friend, parent, advisor, or mentor can kickstart the planning process and drive your next course of action. Without this key step, students will often float through summer aimlessly, reaching the new school year feeling as though they’ve learned and accomplished little over the past few months.
How to Get There
Many of the exciting opportunities with which students hope to engage actually begin their recruitment processes now, during these first few months of the new year. Starting to think about summer plans during finals week, unfortunately, won’t cut it if students wish to have all possible options available to them. Once you’ve taken the time to reflect on your goals, it’s time to dig in and explore! Ask a teacher, advisor, or guidance counselor if they know of any exciting and relevant opportunities, engage with local businesses and community resources, and, of course, use the Internet to find out what might be available near you, or even virtually! Getting an early sense of what is out there, you will be better prepared to pursue the paths of highest interest, all the while keeping your ultimate goals in mind throughout the process.
Amidst the plans and preparations, students and families must also be mindful of scheduling in time to rest, relax, and refresh our minds. After all, this is what summer vacation is all about! Setting out to balance time spent learning and engaging with new, enriching experiences with mental relaxation and reflection during these months away from school will help establish a healthy mindset with which students can enter the new school year, prepared for success.