Preparing for College

Looking Ahead to Summer

As I write this, in mid-February here in the Northeast, the Weather Channel is showing scenes from Southern U.S. states buried in snow and ice. They’re saying that 750,000 homes have lost power due to the massive storm that plowed through the Southeast all day yesterday. I’m looking out my office window, watching the county snow plow truck make its rounds up and down the road, spreading those nasty little pieces of shale that get caught in the tread of our tires and fly out, banging up inside our fenders as we gain speed. The path I shoveled out to my car an hour ago this morning is already invisible, covered by the seemingly relentless falling snow. It was three degrees below zero yesterday morning. It’s deep, deep winter.

You’re probably asking yourself why I’m ranting about winter weather here in an article that’s supposed to be about college matters. Well, the reason is forward thinking. As I mentioned yesterday to someone who was raving about how bad this winter has been, the thing to keep in mind is that we have one very big fact in our favor this time of year: the orbit of the earth around the sun. As relentless as this winter has seemed, one unmistakeable astronomical fact remains: in little more than a month, the Northern Hemisphere will show its face to the sun and all this frozen tundra will begin to melt. It will be spring, and summer will be just over the horizon!

Now we’re getting close to the point of my screed: summer and what you, as a high school student aspiring to college, should be thinking about now, before it actually becomes summer!


So, let’s talk about planning ahead for summer and, especially, summer jobs.

Summer doesn’t officially arrive until the third week of June.  Start looking ahead now, though. There are many summer opportunities, if you know where to look.

For most of you, summertime is probably work time. If you’re going to work, some of you most likely already have your job lined up. You may even be working one now and will just keep on working through the summer.

If you don’t have a job, it certainly isn’t to early to start looking for one now. Most high schoolers start their summer job search in the early Spring, around March or April. That’s when most businesses that depend on summer help start looking for applicants. Don’t be discouraged now, in deep winter, though. There are businesses who are planning ahead for summer right now, so you have a chance to really get a head start these days. Keep in mind that as you get closer to summer, desirable jobs become more scarce. They’re picked off by early prospectors. You, however, can be an ultra-early prospector.

If you’re a high school sophomore, junior, or senior-to-be, and you don’t have plans for summer work, you can still have a profitable summer. Though you may not want to hear this, the summer is an excellent time to get ahead for next school year. One example is the SAT. You can do this several ways.

First, you can improve the quality of your reading. I emphasize the word “quality.” Summer seems to invite students to turn off their brains and recline into three months of MTV, game shows, video games, social media, and soap opera digest. Don’t be one of those! Go to the library and check out some classics or some poetry. Stimulate your brain. Even if you can make it through only one good book this summer, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Another option is to get an SAT study guide (get a good one, like The Princeton

Review’s) and slowly work your way through the chapters. Even if you don’t want to do the lessons, you can study the vocabulary lists that will help you prepare for the tougher non-quantitative SAT section.

Getting back to your job search, however, do you know where your summer job opportunities are?

As I mentioned above, now is the time to start looking for a summer job. Some summer jobs are already taken by students who will return to them this summer. Accordingly, use some intelligent search and marketing strategies to help your cause. A traditional job search can be long and frustrating. Here are

some ideas that can help.

Market yourself. Tell the community around you that you are looking for a job and that you have a lot to offer. One often-overlooked resource is the power of your local newspaper. A “Job Wanted” ad in the classified section is relatively inexpensive and reaches a wide audience. Many employers scan job-wanted ads to see if they can quickly find a good candidate for an opening. Your newspaper may also have an online classified option that parallels their print edition and you may be able to expand the reach of your ad for little or no cost.

A good job-wanted ad is clear and precise. It should have a commanding headline, too. Something like, “Super-Reliable College Student Seeks Summer Work.” That’s a hook. You’ve got to grab your reader’s attention. Once you’ve got their attention, give them a good dose of your best marketing points.

You might say, “Very strong math skills. Excellent computer background: Windows and OS X applications. Experienced in report and proposal writing. Publications, editing, photography, and desktop publishing. Some Web programming.  (212) 555-1234 or johnsmith@gmail.com.”  Now there’s a good ad.

With that, you give anyone cruising the classifieds your a 20-second resume and a way for them to reach you. You could also post your ad on free online bulletin boards in your community and anywhere else where potential employers might see it.

Run your ad through your network. What’s a network? A network is the sum of everyone you know who might know someone who has a job opportunity for you. You might even want to make up your own little handouts that have your ad printed on them. Whenever you talk to a friend or relative in your network, give them your ad card. Ask them to be alert for job possibilities for you. You’ll be surprised how well this can work. Don’t miss an opportunity to market yourself.

So, start thinking about your summer work plans now. Hundreds of other students in your community are making their plans right now. Don’t be left out in the cold (or the snow and ice!).

Summer 2014: It’s coming faster than you think!

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Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.