Some lucky high schoolers land jobs in fields they are interested in, but many students work a summer job for the sole purpose of earning extra cash. Whether you’re scooping ice cream, babysitting or lifeguarding, you can gain plenty of valuable skills and experiences from your job.
- Communication skills. Sure, you did group projects in school, but you were probably partnered with people your own age. A summer job is a great opportunity to work with people who are different from you. It’s important to get along with people of different backgrounds, ages, neighborhoods, etc. to be successful in college.
- New friends. Along with learning to be productive with different types of people, summer jobs are a great way to become friends with people from different grades, schools and ages. Maybe you’ll meet someone who will help you out in school or in your career down the road.
- College job. Landing your first job in college will be a whole lot easier if you already have work experience and a resume. Employers want to hire someone who is responsible, can manage their time and can work with different types of people. You’ll easily stand out from other applicants who don’t have work experience.
- Letters of recommendation. Most scholarship applications and many college applications require letters of recommendation. Holding down a job shows maturity and work ethic, two qualities that colleges value. Who better to write you a letter than someone who was able to count on you to get a job done?
- Learning the value of money. It’s hard to understand the value of a dollar if you haven’t earned it. Put a percentage of your paycheck into savings for college or other pursuits. It’s never too early.
- Time management. Research shows that busy students are better students. A job during the summer (and during the school year) and/or extracurricular activities boost grades and reduce procrastination.
College is a time to meet new people, develop new or existing interests and gain experience that will help get a job after graduation. If there was one thing you could do to accomplish all these things, wouldn’t you do it? Join a student organization related to your career goals, and join another one for fun. Check your college’s website for a list of clubs and attend the student organization fair. Tons of perks come with getting involved on your campus, but here are few important ones:
- Make friends. Joining a club is the easiest way to find people who have a shared interest or passion. People who share interests are generally the easiest people to build friendships with. These people will, in turn, introduce you to more students who will expand and diversify your social circle.
- Relieve stress. Academics are important and should be a top priority, but you will need to take a break. Joining a group with other chemistry majors will be helpful when you want to complain about homework or need help studying, but it’s also important to join a group to have fun. It’s a bonus if your club involves exercise (dance club, outdoor club, etc.), which provides extra stress relief.
- Increase focus. Studies show that staying busy and engaged on campus will improve your grades and focus. If you go back to your dorm room right after class, you probably won’t have a focused five-hour study session. (Let’s be real, you’ll probably watch Netflix and accidentally take a nap.) However, if you need to finish an assignment within a two-hour period before you go to student org activities, you’ll be more productive and focused.
- Build self-confidence. Most student organizations offer leadership opportunities that can build confidence and improve decision-making abilities. Being around older, more experienced students can help you develop these skills in a low-pressure environment.
- Network. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” has truth to it. Making connections with students going into the same field will help you down the road. An older member of your student organization might even help you land your first job out of college. On top of the personal connections, student organizations give you the opportunity to build marketable skills like teamwork, communication and leadership. They also show that you can manage time and responsibilities.
- Learn about yourself. Joining a student organization can show you your own strengths and weaknesses. You find out what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Maybe you find that you love multitasking and creative brainstorming. Equally important, you can find out what you don’t like. Maybe you realize you hate being the organization’s secretary and you’re better off in roles that focus on big picture, strategic planning.
Some students take a year between high school and college to work, volunteer, travel or save money. Many educators say that kids who take a break after high school are more mature when they arrive at college and are more engaged in their education moving forward. This is particularly relevant to students who burned out in high school from years of AP classes, test prep, volunteer projects, sports, music lessons and other extracurricular activities.
Still, gap years can be scary for parents and other adults who care about a student’s success. Many fear that one year will turn into two years and will eventually lead to their student never completing a degree.
When considering a gap year, students should take these three steps:
- Apply to college and defer enrollment. That way, there is something waiting for you at the end of your gap year. Some colleges also might let you defer their scholarships—check with the financial aid office.
- Make sure you apply for financial aid during your gap year. File your FAFSA, apply for scholarships, grants and loans, etc. Remember, you can file your FAFSA starting on October 1 and the earlier you submit it, the better.
- Form a concrete plan. Studies show that students who have a concrete plan are much more likely to start college after their gap year. Ask yourself: What will you accomplish during the gap year? Sitting on the couch playing video games doesn’t count. Will you have a job? How will you pay your bills/save money? Will you volunteer? Will you do an apprenticeship or study abroad?
You can find more information from the American Gap Association, gapyearassociation.org.
Studying for an exam can make anyone feel anxious—even overwhelmed. Here are tips to help you ace the exam, big or small, every time.
- Don’t procrastinate. Give your brain enough time to process and retain information. When you find out about the exam, immediately mark the date when you need to begin studying. Waiting will just stress you out.
- Organize your study space. Some people have trouble concentrating with a million things in front of them. Clear off your desk or clean your room. Do whatever helps your brain focus.
- Know yourself. Figure out what time of day you focus best. (Early morning? Lunch? Before bed?) How do you study best? (Alone with silence? Listening to music? In a public place?)
- Turn off your Internet, TV and phone. If you get distracted by these things (who doesn’t?), save them as a reward for completing your study session. If you need your computer to study, try an app like this one that blocks websites for a short time. Give your phone to someone until you’re done studying.
- Set timed goals for each study session. A schedule will help you stay focused. Example: Study three chapters of U.S. History for 30 minutes, take a 10-minute break and then make a study guide for your math test in 20 minutes.
- Make flashcards. Make free virtual flashcards and quizzes on websites like Quizlet.
- Explain the material to someone. This is a great use for a study group. Take turns explaining relevant items to each other. You will learn from your peers, but you will also remember the material better if you can internalize and explain it.
- Study in different places. Different locations force your brain to form new associations with the study material. Basically, the more unique memories you have with the material, the better you’ll remember it.
- Rewrite your notes. Copying your notes by hand is a great way recall older material and reinforce your knowledge.
- Get creative. Make up stories and songs about the material. You’ll be surprised how much better it will stick in your brain.
- Take breaks. Plan to take breaks while studying. Get a snack. Dance around. Play music. Do jumping jacks. Breaks are beneficial for your brain and concentration.
- Plan your exam day. What time will you leave? What will you eat beforehand? How will you get there? Plan to arrive early so you’re not flustered.
- Be positive! Half the battle is believing you can win! You got this!
For many families, the idea of building a college-going culture lives within the walls of the high school, with teachers, counselors and students driving the conversation about college. Parents, however, are the key partner in helping students stay on the path to achieving their goals of making it to college.
Some parents can draw upon their personal experiences with college. For first-generation students, though, that experience may be an incomplete one. That’s when the experience of GEAR UP Iowa offers the chance to expose both student and parent to the benefits of college. In many cases, this builds an even stronger belief in what attaining a college degree can mean to their student’s future.
Earlier this year, a select group of students and parents attended the Youth Leadership Conference as part of NCCEP’s National GEAR UP Conference. Jennifer Maliszewski, a parent from Sioux City, attended the conference with her daughter Rylie. Both were inspired by what they experienced and learned (Rylie shared her experiences earlier this year). For Jennifer, being part of the conference showed her just how valuable parent involvement can be for students working in GEAR UP schools. She shares her thoughts:
I feel so very blessed to be able to go to San Francisco with my daughter and experience this amazing summit. I watched my daughter learn new skills and make some great life long friends.In addition to all that I was able to attend the parent institute. They taught us about all the things we can do as parents to help support our students on their journey to college. The work books, curriculum and presenter were simply Awesome! Everything was put into terms easy for parents with no experience with college to understand and be able to navigate.The information was priceless to me. It showed me things I never would have thought about like, making sure the school your student selects is the right fit for them and their goals. Not just the school their friends are going to or following a family tradition. Also to make sure they are challenging themselves and not just sliding by. They need the challenge to grow! Also they need to start building their resumes early and give themselves an advantage. They can accomplish this by job shadowing and internships. They also need to learn how to set goals, be persistent, be self aware, have motivation, be able to seek help, and learn how to fail forward. Failing forward means that they will fail in one way or another in their life. Students need to learn how to use that failure, learn from it and grow. There are SO many other things that are just as valuable for parents to know. It’s our job to help our students in every way we can so that they succeed in life!My only suggestion is that EVERY GEAR UP PARENT NEEDS THIS INFORMATION. It’s too valuable for it only to be available to a few people.Thank you again for this amazing experience!
For students making the transition from high school to college, nagging questions can turn into doubts. Left unchecked, those doubts can turn into the dreaded “summer melt,” where students who accept an offer to attend college don’t manage to make it to campus in the fall, for whatever reasons.
Those reasons can be abundant: From financial concerns and fears about academics to feeling overwhelmed by a larger campus or not knowing how and when to turn in housing applications, there are as many pitfalls for students transitioning to college as… well, there are students heading to college.
If you’re a student heading to college this fall, don’t let the changes ahead psych you out and take you off your game. College is an exciting time with new opportunities and there are many resources for helping with those questions and concerns you might have as you get ready to walk on to your new campus.
Here are some great places to look for answers, support and a confidence boost this summer:
Your College’s Financial Aid and Admissions Offices
Many students feel that once they’ve been accepted to a college that their next interaction with the school shouldn’t come until the fall. The truth is that financial aid and admissions offices are the perfect place to answer questions about tuition, fees, student aid, housing deadlines and more. Much of this will be covered at orientation (make sure that you sign up for it!), but if you have questions before then, a call to your school’s office can lead to a quick answer before it becomes a big issue.
Your College’s Student Organizations
Just as the school’s financial aid and admissions offices want to see prospective students succeed, so to do student organizations. Even though the school year is over, many organizations are already working to help embrace a new class of students, engaging in their community and working to make the transition to college easier. First-Generation students can especially look to these groups for support, advice and a chance to meet new people before even getting to campus. Having a familiar face when you get there makes the move to college that much easier.
Many of the questions and concerns that students have during their summer transition aren’t unique to a particular campus. For more general questions, you can always call a local college to get insight to other resources or advice on how to move forward in the fall.
Iowa College Aid’s “Course to College” program works to build community engagement in many towns throughout the state. That means that you may have a local organization in your own backyard that’s looking to help students making the transition from high school to college. Even if there isn’t a group in your town, reach out to local organizations such as United Way, your church or even a mentor or friend who has made the transition to college before you. They’re advice may have more in common with your concerns than you think.
Iowa College Aid’s website offers advice and answers for students facing any number of issues heading to college. From our blog to our video gallery, we can help students feel a little more secure about what awaits them in the fall.
Iowa College Aid’s annual guide to preparing for, and succeeding in, college offers guidance of the steps that students can take before getting to school. More than that, the guide offers advice from college students on what to expect, as well as an example of average college student’s daily schedule. Getting a heads-up and hearing first-hand from other students can make a big difference in a student’s confidence.
For many, summer vacation is the reward for a year of hard work and dedication in the classroom. But for those moving from high school to college, the months between graduation and arriving on campus can be fraught with challenges and distractions that can lead to students not completing their college goals.
“Summer melt” is the name given to those students who, for whatever reason, apply to a college, accept admission, but never arrive after high school graduation. There are many factors that can drive a student toward summer melt. Being aware of a few of those, and taking the steps to stay focused on the college path, can help make sure that the only thing that melts this summer is your ice cream!
Keep in touch with Counselors and Reach out to College Advisers
School counselors are there to help when challenges arise. Before graduation, students should ask high school counselors what resources are available to them in the summer. Need a helpful boost or reminder of why it’s important to get to college? Give your counselor a call!
Colleges are also looking to help students stay on track during the summer transition, many schools can reach out to students by text and email to make sure that the important dates during the summer transition aren’t missed.
Find a Mentor
It’s always easier to tackle a new challenge if you’ve spoken to someone who’s been through it. Community groups, schools and other non-profits offer mentors who can talk to students about the transition to college. But it can be as easy as talking to anyone you know who’s either in or graduated from college. Don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns about the transition when talking to a mentor. These relationships can last beyond the transition to freshman year and can offer a resource for support both in school and down the road. To hear some advice from first-generation students about making the move to college, check out our video “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me.”
Visit the College Website
Your school’s website is a great resource to answer questions you might have before starting school. Everything from student life, financial issues, academics, organizations and more can be found on a school’s website. Take some time to review the website, even before your student orientation. You’ll have a level of expertise that will make the transition to college that much easier.
Look into Placement Testing Before Orientation
Most schools have some sort of placement testing for incoming first-year students. These tests help gauge where students are in math, reading, and writing skills and makes sure students are taking the courses appropriate for their level of understanding in each subject. Some colleges will offer these tests at orientation, others require students to do them online or on-campus before fall semester starts. Students should make sure to contact the college to know when they need to take the tests.
Check College Health Insurance Plans
Many colleges have health insurance plans for students. Students should check their college’s requirements early to see whether it is affordable. Sometimes, colleges will automatically enroll students in the college’s health care plan. If a student already has qualifying insurance, they can usually apply for a waiver. To learn more about transitioning healthcare for students after high school, read the healthcare guide.
Take the time to emotionally prepare
No matter how much you prepare, college is a big change for many people. Whether you’re travelling far away or staying close to home, college is a major step into adulthood, complete with personal responsibilities that may not have been part of your high school routine. The stress of that change can have negative effects, with many freshmen citing it as a reason for dropping out during their freshman year.
If you’re leaving home, take the time to get you (and your family) used to the idea of you not being there every day. And if you’re staying closer to home, start identifying the people you can lean on in times of stress or the ways that you can deal with the pressures of school in a positive way.
Believe in Yourself
The best support students can find to stay on path to college is themselves. Remember: You’ve done the hard part and gained acceptance to college. Your dream of an education, as well as the career and life that comes with it is in your reach. But you can’t get your degree if you don’t show up.
For more tips and advice for planning for, getting to and succeeding in college, check out Iowa College Aid’s Your Course to College.