How your teen can stay productive during the summer months

Emily Moscol, Associate Director of College Guidance
Seeing the summer coming up quickly with no plan in sight can be stress-inducing to parents, who want their teen to be engaged and busy. Students gaining experience in time management, money management, and responsibility through summer work, whether it’s volunteer work or paid employment is a time-honored tradition. Students can gain a skill, explore an interest, make new friends and network. They can also earn money for the school year “wants” that inevitably arise.
We often receive questions regarding summer enrichment opportunities at this time of year. This is our advice for students:
What can I do?
It turns out, there are many types of summer enrichment. Unpaid volunteering, whether sporadic or regular work, is a great way to help a cause that you care about while gaining a skill. Internships or job shadows are also excellent ways to see if a future career is something you might see yourself doing each day. Finding out that your dream job is not what you thought is far more valuable in high school than after you have put time and effort towards it in college. Joining the labor force as a part-time worker is also exciting - don’t worry that you aren’t doing something “important”. Experience working with others, receiving and implementing feedback into your work, managing the expectations of the general public, and being on time are all very important life skills!
What about academics?
Academic programs are also an opportunity for students to expand their knowledge base during the summer. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free online courses that anyone can take. For a self-directed learner, they can keep boredom at bay! Pre-college or academic camps hosted by colleges and universities are also popular, but buyer beware that these will not generally help a student gain admission to a college by virtue of signing up. Colleges want their dorms to be full year-round and adjunct faculty are often hoping to supplement their income, which is why these programs are so well-advertised. Putting a highly selective college’s name on a program is one way to rebrand existing academic programs, and when you dig a bit deeper you may find limited value with extraordinary pricetags. On the positive side, these camps are a nice opportunity for students to test out living in a dorm or new city with a degree of independence that they may not yet have at home. Community colleges often run summer programs as well, and high school students can take community college courses for a low cost in California. This is another way for some students to get the feel of what college can be like, with the additional benefit of transferrable college credit for a reasonable pricetag.
What else is out there?
Students should do what they like in the summer; everyone needs a mental break from the school year. Here are some ideas!
  • Like photography? Parents will pay $100+ for a kids party photographer willing to give digital prints (and you can earn while expanding your portfolio- double bonus)!
  • Like animals? Lots of people travel during the summer and are hoping to find pet sitters or dog walkers.
  • Like kids? Babysitters in San Diego earn between $15-20/hr. If you are an athlete, teaching younger neighbors a sport at a local park can earn $10-20 per child for an hour lesson.
  • Like politics? Volunteer for local or national elections either collecting signatures, asking for donations, or working in a phone bank.
  • Like teaching? Tutors earn $20-40/hr.
As long as you are keeping busy, while still budgeting some time to relax and refresh, you will have a productive and exciting summer. When you apply to college, admissions officers will see that you have pursued true interests, given back to the community and tried new things. They will see that you are responsible, trustworthy, and have emotional intelligence. The important thing is that you do what you like, recharge for the next school year, and use this time away from school to engage outside of the classroom!
Some places to look for summer opportunities:
  1. The PRS NExT site in PowerSchool Learning has internship postings, links to summer enrichment programs, and information about mentors and job shadows.
  2. California’s Employment Development Department:
  3. for babysitting, pet sitting, running errands
  6. MOOCs:
  7. often has offers/requests for odd jobs, childcare, dog walking
  8. for jobs at camps in North America
Summer Resources at Nearby Colleges:
  1. UCSD Summer Session (over 15 separate camp/research/academic/arts opportunities for all ages): and
  2. SDSU Summer Programs (Reading program, Intensive Foreign Language program, Test Prep program):
  3. CSU San Marcos STEM Summer Scholars (10-week program): Linda Collins, Assistant to the Dean
  4. USD Summer Program (Accelerated Summer Academic Program):
  5. MiraCosta Community College: College For Kids and Youth Academy