Is your student interested in a pre-professional program for college, such as studying architecture, engineering, dentistry, medicine, law, veterinary science, or journalism? If so, using the summer break for internships, pre-college programs, and jobs can fulfill two important roles: (1) exposure to the field to determine if the student’s interest is genuine, and (2) building a resume in the area of interest, which can enhance a college application.
Too often, a student will envision themselves in a career based on the exposure they have had to someone who works in said industry or through watching something on television or through having read a book. The actual day-to-day reality of the profession may be entirely different than what the student expects. For instance, a student may think architecture is simply about designing a building, not realizing there is a required knowledge of electricity, plumbing, codes, safety, building systems, site planning, and so on. There are mundane tasks in working with clients and contractors.
If your student has expressed interest in a specific pre-professional field, research summer programs available that will expose the student to all aspects of the career. A simple Google search for “summer pre-professional college programs in XX field” will produce a list of possible choices. Read here for an example of programs for architecture or here for medicine.
An internship is another avenue for exposure that will help the student determine their interest. Finding a quality internship can be a challenge. Often, the best internships are found through family connections. If your student is interested in nursing, knowing someone who works at a hospital will help the student get access to an internship that allows shadowing of medical personnel and interactions with patients, going beyond what a volunteer would normally do. Or, an internship in an engineering firm will expose the student to the different types of engineering concentrations. The key to an effective internship is to get in writing, ahead of time, what the position will provide and to make sure the student doesn’t become just an office assistant for the summer.
The third option is to get a job. Working as a cub reporter for a newspaper will expose the student to the requirements of journalism. If the student has an interest in social media, small local businesses may be interested in hiring the student to manage their online accounts for marketing. If the student is interested in veterinary science, working for a vet will help the student determine if they are comfortable with the more critical aspects of animal care, such as surgery and euthanasia. And, in the mind of college admissions, having a job in high school demonstrates responsibility and maturity.
If your student wants to learn more about a particular profession or is unsure what professions may be of interest, there is a powerful resource available for free through ACT (American College Testing). Their ACT Profile allows a student to indicate interests, explore careers, read about salaries and projected job availability, and related fields, providing a comprehensive resource to begin thinking about career paths.
Once the student has some professions in mind, learning about the college major is important. A student may be interested in a major only to find out they would have to take advanced calculus or master a second language, and this is not of interest. The site My Majors allows a student to read about required courses, so they will be educated on what to expect once enrolled.
The better prepared a student is in understanding possible career choices, the smoother the student’s college path will be. Avoid the undue stress of changing majors once in college by having your student explore possibilities first hand while in high school.