It’s fairly easy to find lists of what high school and middle school students should be doing to prepare for college admissions. Some include studying for SATs, embellishing the resume, taking summer courses. You can see such lists…
- at the College Action Plan via HowToGetIn.com,
- at 5 things high school juniors should be doing, via CBS News,
- and at the June Checklist for Juniors, via The Choice (NYT).
Last summer I wrote about the to-do lists Mod Squad Pete faced as we encouraged him to work through essay drafts and more before his senior year started. See Is it rough being a HS senior? He might agree that was helpful. (Then again, he might not.)
But our suggestions (read: requirements) for the younger teens in the household are fairly basic:
- Learn something (anything) new.
- Get really good at something you enjoy.
- Work (for the household, as a volunteer, and/or for pay).
It’s important to us that they learn and grow. Sure, some of this translates into college admissions prep. More important than that, however, is life prep: choosing to get better at something, learning how much effort it takes to get better, finding new interests, adding new skills, and working in support of the family, the community, and a paycheck.
Mod Squad Linc is a rising 8th grader. Here’s a glimpse of his summer tasks.
Learn something new. He chose the guitar.
Work at something you enjoy so you get really good at it. He chose piano and voice, basketball, and soccer.
Read. He chose collections of Foxtrot, Calvin & Hobbes and numerous thick YA novels. We chose Steinbeck, T H White, James Fenimore Cooper.
Work. Linc has to do minimal (my word, not his) chores each day and a few hours now and then on larger chores. The time spent on these was minimal compared to hours spent honing computer game skills and cooling off at the pool (usually post-basketball).
M.S. Julie is a rising junior and paying closer attention each month to what she might do to prepare for college admissions. Here’s what her summer has included:
Learn something new. We recommended some form of coding; Julie has done that as well as spending hours designing earrings.
Work at something you enjoy so you get really good at it. She chose basketball and graphic design, including doing pro bono work for a cousin’s start-up to build her design portfolio.
Read. High school required John Lewis’s memoir Walking with the Wind, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and a Spanish novel, San Manuel Bueno, Martir, plus writing responses to questions on the books and creating audio recordings in Spanish about a number of topics. She added her own very long list of books for fun, including some Foxtrot volumes.
Work. Julie covered all the options. 1) Same as her brothers, she has a number of regular household chores. 2) As a volunteer, she worked with her Chem teacher on developing the curriculum for a flipped classroom and assisted an elementary school teacher with summer school students. 3) For pay, Julie is tutoring two students in math; they don’t need remedial work, but their parents didn’t want them to lose ground over the summer break. Finally, she is awaiting word on a restaurant job, which may not happen until Pete leaves for college, opening up a position.
Linc and Julie are likely to face the same required tasks next summer, though we’ll probably suggest she work on essay drafts, too. Maybe she can work Foxtrot into an essay.