Remember the opening scene from the 1978 hit movie Grease? John Travolta and Olivia Newton John play “Danny” and “Sandy,” a pair of high school sweethearts who reminisce (through song, of course) about how they met, and fell in love, at the beach the summer before their senior year.
“Summer lovin’ had me a blast ...”
“Summer lovin’ happened so fast …”
Today, the idea that kids that age could spend the summer hanging out with friends at the beach, or anywhere else for that matter, is laughable. Summer, especially for high school upperclassmen, is a time to build the ever-important pre-college resume.
And that makes this mom a bit sad.
I find the fact that my daughter, a newly minted senior, needs to do something “meaningful” during her time off from school kind of depressing. And that’s not because I don’t want her to do something meaningful—I do. It’s the “has to” part of the equation that makes my stomach churn.
I don’t like the idea of my kids participating in activities—be it community service or extracurricular—for any reason other than true desire. I have found, however, as the end of high school draws closer, and the college admissions process ramps up, that sticking to this principle is tough.
Colleges and universities that use the holistic approach to admissions (and those are the ones my daughter is planning on applying to) want proof that the applicant has demonstrated a genuine passion for, and prolonged commitment to, a few specific activities and interests. In theory, this is a good thing. It’s nicer after all to be viewed as a person who has interests and passions rather than only being recognized for a cumulative GPA or SAT score.
So, the good news is that at some institutions of higher learning a prospective student can, and will, be seen as more than just a number. The bad news is that high school students, almost as soon as they enter the ninth grade, need to know which one or two activities or interests they want to pursue, and then they need to jump to it.
Sadly, summer is not a time to rest on laurels, or on a beach blanket. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Summer is often viewed as the perfect opportunity to expand the pre-college activity list. It is not uncommon for kids to leave the country the day after school lets out to go on a community service trip or attend a foreign exchange program.
In between all the traveling and studying, and if they are lucky enough to secure a paying job, the working, rising seniors also have to begin writing the ever-dreaded college essay. And, they also have to complete their summer reading list and prep for standardized testing. I get tired and stressed out just thinking about it, and I have already earned my degree.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want my kids spending June through August sitting on the couch, remote control in hand. I want them to work, and to explore, and to stretch themselves. I just want all of those things to happen organically and not because they are afraid if they don’t do them, they will not get into the college of their dreams.
Thus far, my daughter has been able to put together a schedule full of activities that appeal to her. She’s earning money by working two part-time jobs, and in the next few days will start an unpaid internship in the industry she hopes one day to work in. And she also managed to spend three days roaming around Comic-Con. The stuff she’s doing will probably look good on her pre-college resume (minus the Comic-Con part). And that is nice, but not as nice as the fact that this summer, because she crafted it by herself and for herself, will have meaning.
And that makes this mom a bit happier.