Tyler.Photo.Summer Jobs Story.Reduced for website.George Mason Crab Crawl 006 002When students apply to college, they often need to choose a major before they’ve even stepped foot on campus.

Whether they want to become an engineer, an architect or an accountant can seem like a daunting decision. Yet what can help students make an informed choice is to spend the summers after sophomore and junior year exploring potential careers.

Using summers to look into different careers can also provide an advantage on college applications. Admissions officers notice when applicants try to expand their horizons by taking on new opportunities during summer vacation.

Here are some ideas for summer activities that can help high school students explore their career options. Given the coronavirus outbreak, not all may be available this summer.

1. Volunteer in the community. Students can volunteer their time to learn more about a particular career. If they’re interested in medicine, for example, they can volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Students who want to major in education can work at a summer camp.

2. Shadow a professional.
Students can also look for job-shadowing opportunities to get a taste of various careers. This may involve spending a few days in the office of a local architect, engineer or doctor. Students should try shadowing at a few professional offices to learn about several career paths.

3. Take a class. Students can take a course at a local community college to explore different careers, from engineering to business. They can also enroll in free online college courses offered by companies like edX or Coursera.

4. Get a job. Working at a store or a restaurant gives students valuable experience in developing career-building skills. Many college hospitality programs value work experience at a hotel, spa or restaurant. A summer job also allows students to earn money to help with college expenses.

5. Participate in a summer college program. Many universities offer special summer programs for high school students to live on campus and take college courses. Cornell, for example, has a summer program for high students to take courses in fields that are not available in high school, such as hospitality and nutrition.

6. Participate in a career development program. Students interested in government can attend Presidential Classroom, a weeklong program that immerses students in the world of government in Washington, D.C. There are also summer programs available in STEM, business and other fields.

7. Conduct research. Students can learn about science by working in a lab at a local college over the summer. One way students can find an opportunity is to ask parents to contact friends who work at a university to see if they need help in their lab.

8. Read challenging material. It's important for students to keep up their reading skills so that they can prepare for reading college-level material. Students can check out The New York Times 100 Best Books, well-edited magazines online such as The Economist, and newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Summer is also a good time for students to start preparing for the SAT and ACT by using a prep book, taking an online course or working with a local tutor. Free and paid SAT and ACT resources can be found at www.applerouth.com and www.mytutor.com.

Students have unlimited opportunities to take advantage of the summer months to gain experience that will not only help them decide on a college major but also help them choose a direction for their future careers.

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