Summer school is one option, but there are a lot of beneficial -- and fun
-- ways to make the most of your summer break.
"You've got internships, you've got camps, you've got programs, and you've
got activities during the summer," says Jason Ma, founder, CEO and chief mentor
at ThreeEQ, Inc. His company provides private mentoring services to teens
and young adults, helping guide them into top-tier colleges and universities
and lay strong foundations for successful careers. Ma is also the author of
the book Young Leaders 3.0: Stories, Insights, and Tips for Next-Generation
"Super high-achievers would have nailed [summer activities] down early
in the calendar year because the application deadlines for some of the extremely
competitive programs -- like RSI [Research Science Institute] at MIT -- were
months ago," Ma says.
Similar competitive programs span all disciplines: sciences, business,
STEM programs, and the liberal arts.
Students wanting a break from studying often opt for summer jobs. One reason
jobs as camp counselors or lifeguards are so popular is because teens commit
for the summer only. Retail, food service or office jobs might seem harder
to find because employers are looking for year-round employees.
A growing number of employers are participating in summer jobs programs
like New York City's extremely successful Summer Youth Employment Program
[SYEP], open to New York City residents age 14-24. The program, which started
1963, has become a model for similar programs across the country. SYEP offers
job opportunities with government agencies, hospitals, small businesses, not-for-profit
organizations, museums, law firms, retail outlets, sports enterprises and
even summer camps.
"Last year we developed over 8,000 sites for our young people to work at,"
says Christopher Lewis, SYEP director, at the New York City Department of
Youth and Community Development. Last summer over 130,000 people applied for
47,000 SYEP positions. Participants were chosen at random.
"The program isn't just about finding a job for a young person and having
them work and get paid for six weeks over the summer," Lewis says, noting
the youths are paid minimum wage. "We also provide workshops to give them
skills for job readiness--what kind of tie are you supposed to wear? How to
build a resume. How to behave in the workplace."
Lewis says SYEP helps participants explore what kinds of careers fit their
interests and skills, and the ways higher education can help them achieve
Even if your community doesnâ€™t have a summer jobs program like SYEP, some
local organizations might be able to help.
"We work with 50 community-based organizations who recruit people for our
program and handle work site development," Lewis says.
"So I'd suggest getting in touch with workforce development or youth development
organizations in your area. It may be an after school program, but they might
also be operating a program of this nature, or might be able to help you find
employment or help your figure out where to find additional services."
If you couldn't get into a summer program or didn't get hired for the job
you applied for, there are other productive ways to fill your summer. Be proactive
and check into internships and job shadowing opportunities, or start looking
for potential mentors or coaches.
"Mentors are great," Ma says. "Finding coaches or a mentor is fine, but
the more successful you become the more you'll be in need of a mentor because
the problems you face are more complex."
No matter what you do, using your time wisely is the key to a successful
"I always encourage kids to read a lot. Spend your time nourishing your
brain. Go on some vacations [if you can]," Ma says. "Keep working on skills,
on mindsets, and don't spend the whole summer playing video games. Help yourself
by spending time constructively, as well as having some fun. We all need to
have some fun. That's important."