With admission rates to most prestigious colleges dropping each year, high school students feel the pressure to fill their college applications with various summer internships, jobs and college-sponsored summer programs. Some students, wanting to be productive with their time but still enjoy themselves, select only a few summer activities that are targeted towards their interests. However, others choose to take on as many activities as they can to fill their time and impress colleges. As summer jobs and college programs take up more and more of high school students’ time, they become less beneficial and more likely to cause burnout for high school students during a time meant for relaxing.
College summer programs, offered by colleges around the country, are merely an extension of school into the summer. Some of the most competitive and popular ones, held at colleges like Harvard, UCLA and Tufts, involve a lengthy application process that requires teacher recommendations and transcripts. All of this is done so that students can spend two weeks sitting at a desk and listening to lectures while completing homework and discussion boards throughout. While they give students a sneak peek into college life, they’re also a replica of high school, making the idea of a summer break pointless. These programs are also ridiculously expensive, with some being priced as high as 10,000 dollars for tuition, housing and meals, and with the average falling around 5,000 dollars.
College summer programs aren’t as beneficial as many think, with admissions officers from universities like Harvard and Brown saying that their summer programs rarely give students a leg up when it comes to college admissions. There’s no point in sitting through college programs during summer break if the motivation for doing it is misguided in the first place. Students need to think about what they are actually passionate about and then work on a related project instead of paying thousands of dollars to attend a college summer program that won’t benefit them in the long run.
For many ambitious students, after those two weeks of a college summer program are over, their summer job begins. There are a wide range of summer jobs and internships available for students, many of which will give teenagers valuable working experience. California does have child labor laws in place that prevent high schoolers from working over eight hours a day during the summer. However, this means that jobs can still ask students to work up to 48 hours a week for almost the entire summer, taking away from time usually spent relaxing with friends. On top of this, many students also play on a club sports team, are prepping for the ACT or SAT and are completing any summer work assigned by their high school. This leaves students with a schedule as packed as if it was a school week.
Granted, not all high school students apply for jobs with the motivation of bolstering their college applications. Some students get jobs because their financial situation requires it, or just because they would enjoy the extra spending money. If the incentive for working during the summer is not to cram as much as possible into summer break, there is no reason why students shouldn’t get a summer job. The students who are motivated by college ambition need to step back and review their summer plans before plunging into something they might come to regret.
It’s impractical for students to fill up their college applications with summer activities if they aren’t able to explain why they did them and what they got out of it. According to admissions officers from Harvard and Brown, colleges don’t want to see students commit to as many summer activities as they can, they would rather see students do things that fulfill their interests.
The school year is already fast-paced and busy for high school students, and overcommitting to summer jobs and college programs for the sake of college applications takes away from a much-needed summer vacation. Those 2 ½ months of break are imperative for students to relax and recharge before another school year ahead. If students instead fill their time with college programs and summer jobs that they might not even enjoy, it will leave them feeling tired and burnt out by the time the next school year starts.