Making Summer Count: Internships, Volunteering and Summer School

Habitat for Humanity in Jefferson CityFor many high school students the countdown to summer and their impending AP exams is in full swing. But, if these students want to squeeze in even more enrichment opportunities into their summer plans they need to get going now.

Mark Babbitt, CEO of You Tern, and Jessica Hertz, Manager of Online Services, for University Language Services, discussed with #CollegeChat attendees how to enrich their summer through internships, volunteering, and summer school. Both believe that by pursuing enrichment opportunities students will be benefitting themselves in the long term. According to Hertz, “College admissions officers want to see applicants who are involved in extracurricular. Plus you can explore new interests and try new things.”

Babbitt concurs.”In today’s ultra competitive job market, job seekers need an advantage. Good grades, even a degree, won’t cut it for most.”

How to Research Summer Enrichment Opportunities

Start your search locally. Babbitt recommends students interested in internships, job shadowing or volunteering should start their search at their high school. He recommends students look into what local businesses and non profits already have relationships with their school. Hertz added, “If there is an organization that you love, ask them if they have internships and or volunteer opportunities.”

Sam Coren, tweeting for Student Advisor, a Washington Post site for all things college, suggests students check out Teen Life and their “excellent listing of college summer programs.” Another source to check out is on the College Board web site at “5 Ways to Stay on Track in Summer.”

Network, Network, Network to Find Internships

Most people think of college students when they think of internships. But according to Babbitt, internships aren’t just for college students anymore. You Tern has helped many high school students find internships. He also recommends that students check out Idealist.org. Once a student finds a company to intern for Babbitt recommends the student make sure to check out the company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, and what is being said about that company on social media sites LinkedIn and Glassdoor.com. Babbitt believes it is more important about what is being said about a company in social media than what a company is saying about itself in its annual report.

“The best way to find internships is to ask around and be persistent,” said Hertz.  “Find a company or organization you love and ask.” Shonda Goward, a college admissions advisor and founder of First Generation University, agreed. “Don’t forget to ask your high school administrators. If they see you’re motivated they may help you find an internship.”  And don’t forget your family and friends. High school internships typically come from family and friends according to Goward.

“Networking, networking, networking,” said Babbitt. “And shoot for a paid internship versus working at Target or Taco Bell.” Once you have an internship offer “ask for expectations, hours and the job description before accepting,” recommended Priscilla from Weekend in Paris.

And if a student ends up in a bad internship he should leave advised John Carpenter, an educational consultant.

Check Locally First for Volunteering

The same tactics that students use to find internships can also be used to find volunteering opportunities. Look to those you know, to your school and then your local community.  “Think about what matters to you and volunteer in that,” advises Hertz. “Are you an animal lover? Try the humane society. Is art your thing? Be a docent at a gallery. Are you a math whiz? Try volunteering to tutor young kids.”

Coren recommends high school students check out Charity Navigator to find well run non-profit organizations to volunteer at. Don’t worry too much about how much time you have to volunteer. “If you only have five hours a week to volunteer and the organization is ok with that, than five hours it is. If you can do ten hours a week even better,” said Hertz.

Check out Summer School Programs Close by, Online and at Dream School

High school students have a multitude of options for summer school. Check out high school summer school classes, junior college classes, online classes offered by junior colleges, four year schools and even online colleges. Hertz added, “Community college will usually be the most economical. Taking college classes can be a great way to try a subject your high school doesn’t offer. However, students need to be wary of online programs. Some are good but many are not.”

High School students should also look into summer programs that are offered by colleges they are interested in attending says Fuji Fulgueras, a college admissions counselor. However, Babbitt added, “Consider the needs and type of student first. Sending a high school junior off to Stanford can be intimidating and bad for confidence.”

If earning credits in summer school is important, students need to make sure they can either get credits approved by their high school or the class is accepted by the four year college they are interested in attending. Coren advised, “If transferring credits is important than stay general; calculus isn’t as sexy as a foreign film class but every college has it.”

However, if credits aren’t important, “take a class act that interests you and don’t worry about the credit,” said Hertz. For as Carpenter pointed out, “Good summer experiences don’t have to be expensive. Volunteer work, shadowing, four weeks on a job with a mentor all can be great.”

What suggestions do you have for teens looking to make their summer count?