Helping your teen to get ahead start on their career goals

By Mae Loftus

Summer break is here; a time for students to get a well-deserved rest from school. But in today’s competitive world, taking a break may not be the best way to get ahead.

In the ambitious domain of college admissions, universities like to see students take the initiative to further pursue their academic interests or enhance a skill they truly enjoy.The goal is for the student to pursue their passion, not justparticipate in activities that they think college admission representatives mightdeem “impressive.” A summer activity will help a student gain new and meaningful experiences that will lead to self-growth and potentially engender a meaningful career path.

1. Summer Job
Having a job will keep a teen engaged, teach responsibility, hone skills and help create a resume. With the current state of our economy, it can also be helpful to the family when a teen earns a paycheck. A job helps instill the value of hard work and teaches financial responsibility. If a teen does not secure a job working for others, itis time to think like an entrepreneur—making money through their own initiative—such as babysitting, dog walkingor mowing lawns.

2. College Visit
Visiting a college campus can turn into a fun family trip. If the college is far, make a family vacation of it. Or vice versa. Add a college tour to your itinerary. Most admissions departments are designed to give tours at any time, but call ahead to schedule a tour. Setting foot on the campus of a college can spark motivation and inspiration to set academic and career goals. Walk across campus and let them see the place where they can take their education to the next level.

3. Career Shadowing
What better way to get a real sense of what it is like to be a grown-up than to literally follow an adult’s footsteps? It is a great learning experience for any teen to see what their future career path could be like from someone who is already succeeding in that field.

4. Volunteer
Doing something meaningful fosters a greater sense of community, work skills and empathy. Facilitate conversation in determining your teen’s interests. Unlike a job where a teen is compensated, volunteering requires that a teen have passion for the project. Getting their friends involved serves as a great motivator. Some suggestions are volunteering at an animal shelter, animal adoption center, assisted living facilities, or food banks. There are endless opportunities.

5. Build a Resume
Though very few teens will have a complete and professional resume by the time they graduate high school, documenting pertinent activities will take them one step closer to their career goals. It’s a good time to reflect on the student’s work and achievements. The process will help facilitate a discussion in where they are heading, where they want to go and what supportthey need in their endeavors. A resume sets the stage for a future career and a lifetime of success.

Supporting, guiding and encouraging are the keys to your teen having a successful summer. It’s not what they do, but the process they go through. Summer time is an excellent opportunity to go through a learning process where there are no books, bells or homework involved; to reflect on their skills and build on them.

Mae Loftus has over eight years of experience guiding families and the high school student to prepare for, and get through the competitive, complicated and time consuming college application process. She received a master’s degree in counseling and her pupil personnel services credential. She founded College Set Goal and is working as an independent college counselor. Mae’s blog provides information and opinions about the college application process, career trends and financial aid at: