This is going to be a summer like no other. Most of us are masked, staying “socially distanced,” and trying to find what to do with ourselves as our favorite events and activities, gatherings, and in many cases, our jobs are cancelled, postponed or substantially changed.
For many college students, summer is usually a time to earn money or or to participate in internships to practice career skills. Since many of these activities may not be available this year, many students, and their families, may be at a loss.
This doesn’t have to be a lost summer
It’s definitely not “business as usual” this summer, but that doesn’t mean that your student is limited to binge watching sitcoms and texting their friends. For many students, this summer may afford them some wonderful time to tap into their creativity and/or just enjoy more leisure activities. It may give your student a welcome break.
However, you may also need to help your student understand that this doesn’t have to be a “lost summer.” Your student can move ahead and make sure that their return to school in the fall – in whatever form it takes – will go more smoothly.
Start by taking time to talk to your student about their feelings, fears and concerns and practice all of your listening skills. There’s a lot going on below the surface for a lot of us right now, and your student may welcome the opportunity to process their thoughts with someone.
Then consider offering some of these suggestions for things to do over the next few weeks. Everything won’t be right for everyone, but your student may find some items that make sense, will fill their time productively, and will move them ahead.
What can your student do this summer?
- Take a summer class. Most summer classes are about 6 weeks long and can give your student the chance begin the college year with some credits. Your student might take a class at their school or at a school that is closer to home or less expensive and then transfer the credits. Be sure to have your student check to be sure that their school will accept these credits in transfer. With a few credits “in the bank,” your student might be able to take a slightly lighter load during that transitional first semester.
- Identify any weak academic areas and bring those up to speed. If your student finds writing, math, or any basic skills especially difficult, strengthening these skills over the summer will help when school begins. Your student might take a formal course, might find a tutor or find an online program that will bolster their skills. This could help your student avoid developmental classes in the fall, or simply make the fall schoolwork more manageable.
- Investigate the options for CLEP tests in basic subject areas. Your student might be able to study a subject in depth this summer, take a CLEP exam, and receive credits without actually taking a course. This can be a great way to complete some basic requirements, especially if your student is already strong in a particular area. Be sure to check with the college first to ask about their CLEP policies.
- Get a head start knowing as much as possible about the college. In addition to understanding what the “new normal” COVID policies will be, your student can spend time reading about the traditions and history of the school, the curriculum, faculty members, activities, opportunities, and expectations. Your student will be even more ready to enter the life of the college.
- Although formal internships may be on hold this summer, this can be an ideal time to do in-depth exploration about academic majors and careers. Explore the materials on the school’s Career Office pages, research related professions to find out what particular jobs entail, what fields of study are suggested, and what the expectations of the field are.
- Reach out to some people in the field for informational interviews. Your student can spend time talking to people who are living the jobs that they want. This can give your student a better idea of how to use their time in college to prepare for their future career.
- Join a professional association or two as a student member. Once your student is a member, they will have access to career materials, events, and professional journals. Use some time this summer to explore and make contact with others. Your student may receive suggestions about courses to take or make connections with potential mentors.
- Spend time this summer exploring and brushing up on technology skills. This doesn’t mean more Facetime, Tik Tok, or video games. Explore the educational and collaboration tools that will be required if classes are online due to an outbreak of the virus. Practice with Zoom, Teams, Google Groups. Find out what Learning Management System your school uses (Blackboard, Webex, Canvas) and get to know it. Get comfortable. If you need to use it for courses, you want to be able to focus on course content not on how to navigate the format.
Do what you can to help your student see this summer as a productive time of preparation. Taking advantage of opportunities will not only help to keep your student busy, it can help them see this as a time to lay the foundation for their college education and to move forward in a positive way. We all need to stay positive.