Mar 7, 2016

4 fantastic summer resources—and they’re FREE

Summer can’t come soon enough for millions of families frozen in place by the mountains of snow and confounding temperature swings characteristic of the mercurial winter of 2016.

And for those who are hoping to have seen the last of the white stuff, this may be a good time to start researching the various programs available to  high school students interested in finding a fun, valuable and/or educational summer experience.

For this purpose, the internet can be a wonderful and truly valuable resource.  But be aware:  all websites are not created equal.

When it comes to summer programs, there are lots of different marketing incentives that may get in the way of helping you make sound decisions about the quality and cost of different opportunities.

For example, an enormous number of colleges now offer classes, camps, internships, and other related programs during the summer months.  They’ve discovered these kinds of activities are useful for filling residence halls, employing professors and administrative staff, increasing visibility, and making a little money. And colleges can be relentless marketers using their websites and mailing lists to attract prospects. 

If you understand why the college might want to sign you up for the summer (see above) and if you’re willing to pay some of the enormous fees associated with these programs, fine.  But don’t think that that taking a summer class at Outrageously Prestigious University will somehow fast-track you through admissions or that the academic credit offered is worth much, if anything.

Also be wary of websites that ask too many questions to “register” or appear to promote a group of expensive programs through “featured listings.”  These may be fronts for larger marketing operations which accept placement fees from advertisers.  They don’t have your best interests in mind.

And don’t fall for the honor of being “invited” to participate in or attend a particular summer program.  Again, you may be the target of a marketing scheme designed to make the opportunity look selective.  These typically pricey programs may be worthwhile for introducing careers, making friends, and having fun, but don’t be deceived into thinking they are anything more than glamorous summer camps.

The following four websites have no incentives other than to provide you with basic information on what’s available for the summer.  They accept no advertising and represent no particular interests.  Check them out:

College Lists Wiki
College Lists Wiki is a free, publicly-available site designed to support college counselors as they assist students navigate the college search process.  It’s a labor of love maintained by Cigus Vanni and Shelley Krause, who use the “wiki” format to invite collaboration with college counseling professionals. 

To use the site for the purpose of searching for summer opportunities, simply type “summer programs” into the search bar and various lists and resources will appear.   There is no advertising, no registration, and no pressure to choose one program over another.  What you have are wonderful lists of links to programs you are free to evaluate in terms relevant to what you need or find interesting.

Davidson Institute for Talent Development
While technically targeted to “gifted” students, the Davidson (not to be confused with the college in North Carolina) website actually contains a wealth of information and resources potentially useful for any student. The most generic and wide-ranging list contains summer programs organized by topics of interest including arts, enrichment, leadership, literature, math, outdoor, precollege, science, technology, engineering and more.

Links to websites are provided for more specific investigations. And note that the programs listed have been recommended by parents, professionals and students associated with the Davidson Institute.

Rochester Institute of Technology Co-op/Internships and Summer Research Opportunities
For a number of years, RIT has thoughtfully compiled a list of co-ops, internships and summer research opportunities for high school students.  All of the opportunities listed offer stipends or salaries, unless otherwise indicated.  And many of the opportunities also provide travel reimbursement, housing or meals.

Note that this listing is focused on opportunities in positions directly related to biology and biotechnology.  There is no registration required nor is there any glitzy marketing associated with the website.  To access information, you simply click on a link. 

Summer Program Finder (SPF)
SPF is a wonderful resource that made its debut last year.  Designed and compiled by a school counselor, the site is a FREE summer search engine targeted to high school students, parents, counselors, teachers or anyone searching for opportunities at the high school level.  You can specify the terms of your search to include such factors as cost and location.

Focusing primarily on academic programs on college campuses, the site also lists internships and research possibilities, volunteer and community service programs, and travel and study abroad programs.  In addition, there’s a blog with monthly articles relevant to summer planning for teenagers.

Many high schools also compile lists of summer programs and share these lists on their websites.  These too are free of marketing intent.  You may want to check with your school counselor or college career office to see what’s available.

Zero in on summer activities that will help you explore or expand upon your interests. Don’t spend your summer participating in activities only because you think they will “look good” or impress colleges. Keep in mind that you don’t always need to go far from home, spend huge amounts of money or otherwise appear privileged.

And most important—remember to have some fun!

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