Summer Suggestions for Teens

I receive so many inquiries from parents and teens about careers and College/University searches.  I find with my job as a School Counselor and all of the time restraints due to testing, scheduling, etc. that I am limited to give every student the time I really think they need to truly discover their interests and potential careers.  I spend a lot of time talking about deadlines for applications to Colleges/Universities and for scholarships but it leaves me with very little time for discussion and helping students really dig and explore what careers or career areas they should pursue further.  I thought it may be helpful to put together a suggestion for summer activities.  Our teens tend to have a bit more down time in the summer and I think doing some or all of these suggestions may put students in a  better place once the next school year rolls around.  When I created this list I based much of it on the fact that our teens really are very committed during the school year and I feel these suggestions would fit nicely during the summer months and would also help alleviate some of the pressure and work teens face during the school year.  So here we go:

  1. Encourage your teen to talk about the past school year and really look at one or two areas where they feel they could have made some improvements. Many procrastinate, some don’t feel they really know how to study, and others don’t feel very organized.  Encourage your teen to set one or two goals for the next school year to address these areas.
  2. It’s important for teens to keep a log listing all of the activities they do throughout the year and summer is a great time to update their log. Often when teens become seniors in high school and are asked on college and scholarship applications what activities they were involved in, they become overwhelmed and dazed as they try to recall everything they did during the past four years.  I  encourage students to put EVERYTHING, no matter how small it seems to them.  I’ve had students list everything from Blood Donor to Student Aide to Vocalist at a Christmas Church Service.  It’s important that Colleges/Universities and scholarship committees see all that our teens are involved in so updating this list yearly helps students not lose track of everything they do.
  3. Another suggestion I make to students to do during summer break is to find a small part time job or volunteer. It is important for our teens to have experiences working with others although I let students know it doesn’t have to be many hours because some find it just too difficult to add to what they are already committed to in the summer and that is fine.  Also, if the job or volunteer opportunity can be in a career area that they find interesting, even better!
  4. Encourage your teen to check out these resources for career exploration. Many times teens come to me panicking about not knowing what they want to do for the rest of their lives.  I attempt to calm them down a bit because I feel as if there are plenty of adults still running around unsure what they really want to do.  However, I do believe it is important for teens to get to know themselves better and explore different career areas.  Here are my favorite resources:


Career Finder –

Career One Stop –

My Next Move –

Quest Career test –                                                                      a-job/

Quiz Rocket –



What Color is Your Parachute?  For Teens – Carol Christen

Career Match:  Connecting Who You Are With What You’ll Love To Do – Shoya                                                                                               Zichy

Getting Real:  Helping Teens Find Their Future – Kenneth Gray

Careers:  The Graphic Guide to Finding The Perfect Job for You – by DK

Do What You Are:  Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of                                                                   Personality Type – by Paul Teiger, Barbara Barron, and                                                                                                   Kelly Teiger

  1. I also encourage students to put time into preparing for the ACT and/or SAT during the summer months. There are so many resources available today for students, everything from websites to apps for their phones.
  2. Summer break is also the perfect opportunity to job shadow once or twice in a career area of interest. I encourage students to ask family or other adults in their lives about any connections they have to the careers they are interested in.  Students can also inquire with their school counselors for connections as well.  Job shadowing is such a valuable experience that many students need to take advantage of.  It is the best way to really see what someone does day to day in particular careers.
  3. This suggestion is especially important for students who will be seniors during the next school year. Many colleges and universities are using the Common Application ( for their admission application and while it is very lengthy, it is a time saver due to the fact that you complete one application online and can send it to multiple colleges and universities.  Common Application has already released the essay prompts that will be used for the application for next year, so I encourage students to get a head start on those essays and have the essay proofread multiple times by an English teacher.  In addition, I encourage incoming senior students to be searching for colleges and universities they will want to be applying to in the fall.  Furthermore, investing time and applying for scholarships is so important!  Here are two of my favorite online resources:

  1. And last but not LEAST! I encourage teens to relax and enjoy time with their family and friends.  This break is so necessary to get fueled back up for the next school year!

Raising Kids Who Have GRIT

I think one of the most challenging things about being a parent is watching your child struggle with something.  Whether that would be having a hard time with math, having a big fight with a best friend, or not getting into a college your child was hoping to, it is very heart wrenching to watch our kids hurt.  I often come in contact with parents, either through my profession or in my personal life, who are trying to minimize the uncomfortable pain their child is feeling or to erase that pain all together.  I understand the feeling of wanting to rescue our kids when they are struggling, it makes it seem better but truly we are keeping them from  building the skills they will need as adults to persevere when things are tough or even how to deal with difficult feelings during times of struggle.

An awesome book, “The Gift of Failure”  by Jessica Lahey, is full of research that demonstrates that when we actually involve ourselves to rescue our kids, we actually are hurting them.  All parents have the goal of raising healthy, confident children, but saving them from experiencing failure or struggles keeps them from learning important skills in handling challenges later in their lives.  I recently began reading this book when I was searching for resources related to teenagers and GRIT.  Grit to me is having the persistence to persevere despite things being hard.  Honestly, grit seems to be lacking from most teens that I come into contact with.  I have talked to groups of kids about pushing through hard things and not giving up whether it be on the basketball court, in speech class, or taking a test.  More and more kids want to throw their hands up and be done when the going gets tough.  This characteristic will not prove them well in adulthood and it concerns me more than their academic success, their grade point average, or their class rank.

I spend much time trying to determine why this persistence doesn’t exist with most of our teens.  What has brought us to this point? I’m certain there are many factors but one that is so interesting to me is the role parents play in their children having persistence.  Today’s stakes are very high for students who are pursuing college.  More and more colleges and universities are wanting students with the highest GPAs, class ranks, and proof of students taking the most challenging courses.  Because of this reality, I believe it causes parents to put the pressure on our kids as well.  However what comes along with this pressure, is the parent’s refusal to allow failure to happen because the stakes are too high to allow this.

Many teens today fear any failure.  Parents become over involved in an effort to keep their child from experiencing failure and as Jessica Lahey shares in her book that the setbacks and failures that parents have shoved out of the way of their children’s paths are the necessary experiences that teach our kids how to be resourceful. persistent, and resilient.  So many times when our kids fail, we personally feel as if we have failed.  Not only are areas of our kids lives very competitive but parenting has become very competitive and judgmental.  There have been times when my own kids have said, “ if we decide to do this or that what will people say or think?”.  This concern drives so much of what our teens and other parents choose to do rather than making decisions to do what is right for them.

So while many of us would agree that our children really need to be independent, persistent, and resilient, it then is necessary for us to take a step back and allow our kids to find their own way.  As Lahey shares, failure is a necessary and critical part of our children’s development.  These failures end up being opportunities in disguise.  They teach our kids how to make adjustments and also allows them to see that they are capable and competent to work through any difficulty.  Lahey shares research that children who have parents who don’t allow them to fail are less engaged, less excited about education, less motivated, and less successful than those children with parents who allow them to experience difficulty.  So many parents wonder that by backing off, what is most important to do?  Lahey shares that parents should focus on encouraging their children to embrace opportunities to fail, find ways to learn from the failures, and create positive relationships with the other adults in their children’s lives.  While I certainly find that this isn’t an easy task and I still have plenty of times that I fight with myself to keep from getting involved, I do relish in the times when my own kids have been so proud and feel confident when overcoming a difficult time in their lives.  Parenting is full of questioning yourself and just hoping you’ve done good enough for your kids.  What a great feeling it will be as we watch our kids create happy, fulfilling lives.