Make the Most of Your Child's Summer: Ten Things to Keep in Mind
By Dr. Maureen McCoy, Head of Middle School
Summer is celebrated in song as the time for laziness, fun in the sun, and general relaxation. But for our Keystone students, and for most of the students around the world who will be in the same applicant pool for colleges, summer is a time for opportunity and learning. It’s the time to improve learning, build a profile for college admissions, while having a little fun too.
I want to tell you about ten different purposes of summer programs, and let you consider how your family’s summer plans can support student learning over the summer. There are a multitude of different activities and programs that students can do over the summer months, and most meet more than one purpose. Let’s see how your family’s summer plans can allow students to keep on learning, in a different way.
1. Summer activities can build English proficiency.
Just being in an English-language environment can help students with listening comprehension, and challenge them to speak English more. So traveling to an English-speaking country is a good summer plan. Most families will find that even in non-English speaking countries, they need to speak English as the common language of communication. Enrolling in an English-language summer program gives similar exposure to English, in both formal classroom instruction and in less formal social interactions. But there are other more deliberate ways to improve English even at home. Students can write a diary or a blog in English. They can watch English-language movies and listen to (and sing with!) English-language music. They can spend some time each day on websites that have vocabulary games or exercises. They can read books and websites in English. Proficiency in English is a “use it or lose it” proposition. It’s so important to keep up with English learning.
2. Summer activities can increase knowledge of other cultures.
Family travel is a great way to learn about traditions, foods, and ways of life in other places. Meeting and talking with people can help with breaking down cultural barriers. Most of our Keystone students want to go to university outside of China, so seeing how people in other countries might have different ways of doing everyday tasks or have different approaches to life can help with later transitions when it’s time to study overseas.
3. Summer activities can help students to find a passion or pursue a passion. Colleges like to create freshman classes that have variety and depth. They don’t want each accepted student to be the same. It’s not enough to just have good grades and good test scores – everybody applying to Stanford already has that! They want to see if students have started to develop their own interests and passions. Some summer programs are specialized - for theater, or basketball, or photography, or astrophysics, or computer programming, or fashion design, or yoga, to name a few. If a student already has a strong interest, summer is the time to dive deep and learn more! Other summer programs, though, allow students to sample many different kinds of activities and programs, in the hopes that they might find an area that sets them on fire. Summer is a time for finding a passion as well as exploring a passion.
4. Summer allows for exploring universities and colleges. While everybody knows Harvard and Stanford, there are more than 2000 colleges and universities in just the United States! Taking time to research colleges, and then visiting them, can help to make better decisions about which colleges to apply for. Seeing the city or town and walking around the actual campus can help students to see if this environment is one that truly fits them. Summer is a good time to see them. Many universities have summer programs for high school students on their campuses, but be aware that attending such a program gives little or no advantage in the later application process to that university.
5. Summer can be a time to develop leadership. Here at Keystone we try to set up many different opportunities for student leadership during the school year, but during the summer this can happen too. Both inside and outside of China, there are organizations for youth leadership. Many young people find that being a camp counselor with younger children is a path to being more confident in leadership. Check out summer camps in different countries, either as a camper or a counselor.
6. Summer can be a time to learn about a different part of the world. Family or youth group travel can enrich a young person’s life. Being reflective about the experience though journaling can double up on improving English as well as processing responses to the new environment.
7. It’s fairly easy to find opportunities for community service in the summer. Keystone students already have relationships with a number of Beijing charity groups, and the May ELP trips will introduce others. The Round Square organization has service opportunities to which Keystone students can apply for this summer in Peru and South Africa. Whether initiated by an individual or organized by a foundation, community service helps students to understand a world outside their own.
8. Many older students find that summer allows for opportunities in the work world, through internships. Perhaps someone in your family has a business where a student can work this summer, finding out about the world of work and seeing what it is really like to work in a field of interest. There are also organizations that set up internships for which students can apply.
9. Even if a student is staying close to home this summer taking a course is possible in the summer. We highly discourage allocating the majority of summer vacation time to taking English prep classes like TOEFL or SAT. Colleges are not impressed at the lack of imagination shown in such a summer plan. Instead, consider taking a course in an area of interest, either on-line or in person. Astronomy? Fashion design? Building an app? Creative writing? These are all possible. A week or two with a class for an English boost is not a bad idea, but it should not be the whole summer plan.
10. The eight weeks of summer are also a good time to prepare for the next academic year. All grade nine students will be in the middle of their personal project work. Grade ten students can prepare for their DP classes through recommended readings or on-line courses. Other students can check in with their current teachers to ask for reading recommendations before they leave in June.
Summer is a great time for different learning. Keep learning and growing while you enjoy the break from classes.
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