Is your student interested in some pre-professional summer programs for college? For instance, 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.
Tunnel vision problem
Too often, a student will envision themselves in a career based on very little evidence. This evidence can range from the exposure they have had to someone who works in said industry, to watching something on television or read in a book. The actual day-to-day reality of the profession, on the other hand? It may be entirely different than what the student expects. For instance, a student may think architecture is simply about designing a building; therefore 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.
Where your pre-professional summer programs come in:
If your student shows interest in a specific pre-professional field, research summer programs available that will expose the student to all aspects of the career. To start, a simple Google search for “summer pre-professional college programs in XX field” will produce a list of possible choices. Continuing our examples, you can actually 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. Nonetheless, finding a quality internship can be a challenge. Often, the best internships pop up through family connections. For instance, if your student is curious about nursing, knowing someone who works at a hospital will help the student get access. That can mean an internship, shadowing of medical personnel, and interactions with patients; in many ways, going beyond what a volunteer would normally do. Following a different path, some students apply en masse. For example, an internship in an engineering firm as one of many interns would 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! This is one safety 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.
Doing your research
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 curious about a major only to find out it requires advanced calculus or mastery of a second language, and this is not of interest. The site My Majors allows a student to read about required courses. This allows you to learn what to expect once you enroll.
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.