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Summer Programs for High School Students

Ah summer – a time for sleeping in during the week, endless barbeques and putting the majority of your energy into maintaining your tan. While it’s definitely great to embrace a slower, more relaxed pace of life, it’s important to recognize that fun, learning and productivity can go hand-in-hand during this season.

A variety of opportunities for exploration and growth abound in June, July and August. You can study, you can travel, you can volunteer; all you need to do is simply identify an activity or subject you’d like to pursue. Types of programs might include:

  • Language immersion in a foreign country (eg. live with a host family in France)
  • Cultural immersion abroad (eg. study art history in Italy)
  • Taking classes on a college campus (and potentially earning credit)
  • Taking classes focused on a specific subject (eg. programs for students interested in engineering or architecture)
  • Volunteering domestically or abroad (eg. work on a Native American reservation or in an orphanage in Ghana)
  • Find an internship (eg. NASA and the State Department - among other companies and institutions - both sponsor a variety of high school internships)
  • Intensive arts programs (at various local, national and even international writing, fine and performing arts centers)
  • Programs in wilderness training (eg. go rock climbing, white water rafting, etc.)

Of course, this is just a broad smattering of potential options to wet your palette (and get you contemplating your plans). You will also need to identify the time frame that works best for your schedule. It’s common to find programs that run anywhere from a week to two months.

Further, you will need to think about the type of living situation that most appeals to you. Many summer opportunities are often away from home. Would you be happy living with a host family? Does the idea of living in a dormitory with other high school students excite you? How about camping outside or even within a community center? Or do you prefer something to which you can commute on a daily basis? It’s important to assess your comfort level so you choose the setting that’s right for you.

Additionally, some summer programs, particularly the ones that maintain an academic focus, have admissions requirements. They typically look for students who have excelled in their classes and who have enrolled in some of the more advanced/challenging courses offered in their respective high schools. Other programs operate on a first come, first served basis. It’s important to research the policies of the prospective trips you’re considering to ensure you don’t miss (or erroneously bank on) your chance.

It should also be noted that, similar to college, these programs run the gamut in terms of cost. Many of these trips are not inexpensive. Fortunately, just like within higher education, a number of programs offer scholarships to help off-set the costs. Therefore, don’t automatically dismiss the ideas or assume they are out of reach. There’s a definite possibility that you can make it happen!

Summer programs are a great investment. They allow (or perhaps force) you to test your boundaries and really push yourself. And they expose you to new people, experiences and ideas. By going out of your comfort zone, you are guaranteed to make new discoveries about yourself and your passions. And don’t worry – you can still work on your tan while doing all of this!



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