Five ways to prepare for college in the summer

By Robin Gee

Summers can be a time for rest and relaxation, but a few months spent wisely can give high school and even middle school students a boost to build college-level skills, explore potential careers or, in that final summer before college, to hit the ground running in the fall.

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Students getting ready for college
High school students should consider using summer to plan for college.
A little preparation can go a long way in building confidence and ease the transition to a new academic life.

1. Attend summer college classes for teens.

Sometimes called teen bootcamps or career exploration workshops, many colleges offer special programs for motivated teens for a few weeks each summer. Taught by college faculty and using college resources, these classes compact a lot of info into a short time.

Keeping it fun and interesting (It’s summer, after all!), most offer hands-on activities for students to practice new skills, such as creating a short video, constructing a small wood project, writing code for a robot or performing basic laboratory tests.

In the end, students not only gain a deeper understanding of a career field but also get comfortable in a higher education environment.

2. Sharpen technical skills.

Seventy-eight percent of teens aged 12 to 17 have cell phones and a growing number also have access to touch-screen mobile devices such as tablets, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

Yet, many do not have the keyboarding speed and other computer skills needed for college-level research and work. Noncredit and college credit classes are available at schools, colleges, libraries and community centers in the summer and throughout the year.

Classes in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, or other software abound, as do classes on how to conduct and understand Internet research.

3. Explore the world.

Outward Bound hosts U.S. adventure trips and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) offers summer abroad programs aimed specifically at high school students. While this option can be pricey, some scholarships are available and older high school students have opportunities to earn college credit.

Summer internships for high school students are plentiful, from helping at a local nonprofit to writing for a national magazine, there are opportunities in almost every community. Internships.com lists hundreds of opportunities but a quick call to your local high school or college can send you in the right direction.

4. Take a trip to your new campus.

For recent college-bound grads, don’t skip summer orientations. While most colleges offer day-long orientations at the start of each semester, many also offer longer weekend or week-long events in the summer. Held on campus, these opportunities help students get a feel for campus life, academic expectations and social opportunities.

If you don’t want to do the formal program, visit anyway if you live near enough. The halls may not be as crowded as they are in fall but you’ll be surprised at how many classes are in session over summer. Chances are you’ve already had the official tour, but an unofficial, more leisurely walkabout can give a student the feel for where things are and how it feels to navigate the halls.

5. Start college early.

Get started in college over the summer. An increasing number of colleges are offering summer-start programs and undergraduate credit classes. Summer session offers an ideal opportunity for those who want to get a head start or reach their college goals early.

Summer classes are usually smaller in size so they offer more one-on-one time with instructors and help new college students ease into the rigor of college material. Students have a relaxed atmosphere to make friends and get comfortable on campus before the fall rush of activity.

For more on summer offerings available to high school students and college-bound grads, contact your local college.