She Knows What You'll Do Next Summer

June 06, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
When she was a child, Laura Wood, Senior Education Consultant with Globetrotters Education Consulting Inc., says that she was shipped off to camp every summer to learn about arts, crafts, sports and the wilderness. Wood says that, today, summer programs continue to play an important role in a child’s development. However, the number of new opportunities is growing exponentially.

In a recent survey, Wood discovered that more and more parents are looking at the summer as an investment and thus seriously consider how their child will spend the vacation. Top reasons include the two month holiday, mounting competition in higher education and the combination of personal benefits including increased independence and maturity.

“North American students get long summer vacations, giving them enough time to relax after school but still make productive use of their holiday,” explains Wood. With more pressure on parents at work and less time at home, fewer parents have control over their teens. As Wood says, the right summer activities are usually well-managed, offer a unique learning experience that students wouldn’t receive in a conventional classroom and include many fun activities that will keep their interest.

But can such a program really benefit a university application and should a 15 year old already be thinking about going to university? Although Wood believes that this is primarily an American phenomenon at this time, she says that post-secondary planning is starting to spread to Canada.

“Twenty years ago, a bachelor’s degree seemed more than enough to succeed. Today, undergraduate degrees are just the start of a long academic journey towards a successful career.”

The diversification and pre-requisites of post-secondary education mean that teens must decide at a younger age what their career focus will be. Furthermore, the added pressure of increasing numbers of high school students opting for post-secondary education means that more students are competing for fewer spots and funding opportunities; the supply has not grown along with the demand.

How does this affect summer programs?

“Parents now look at summer experience options, whether they are language schools or internships, as giving their child an edge in the post-secondary game,” explains Wood who has noted a 75% increase in the number of students choosing international programs over local camps in the last five years.

It seems that students who can offer an internship or proficiency in a foreign language through an international experience program demonstrate a level of independence, experience, open-mindedness, responsibility and adaptability that educators and employers are currently looking for.

So, what exactly can you do and how do you find out about dependable programs suitable for your child?

“The possibilities really are endless and you have to be quite careful,” Wood says. “But for young teens, we usually suggest language schools that offer special teens programs and for those in their later teens, we find that short internships and au pair are safe and reliable options that keep both parent and child happy.”

While Wood suggests that there are options out there that are cheap, she insists that it is very much a case of you get what you pay for. “The best way to shop around is to look for value for money.”

She explains that au pair often falls into this category, as websites offer free or low priced matching services to young North Americans wanting to go to Europe. Au Pairs live with a family and look after children and free websites offer little to no support for youth traveling abroad and cannot guarantee weekly stipend, living conditions, or family screening.

“Au Pair host families pay agencies a lot of money for the screening process, so you can feel comfortable about sending your teen away. On the other hand, what does it say about a family on a website that does not even care to see a childcare reference or police certificate from their potential caregiver?”

While many students will concentrate on saving money for college this summer, Wood encourages both teens and parents to stop and really consider the long-term benefits of summer experience programs. The quantitative benefits of a program, such as how it looks on a resume, combined with the resulting personal development can be life-changing. With more and more responsibilities and at a younger age, teens are missing out on the experience of life itself.

“These opportunities are difficult to arrange when you are 35 years old, have a full-time job and family responsibilities. You don’t want to look back at your youth with regret for what you didn’t do.”

So, the real question is…what are you doing this summer?

For more information about Globetrotters Education Consulting, summer opportunities or Senior Education Consultant Laura Wood, look at their website at:

Laura Wood is a Senior Education Consulting with Globetrotters Education Consulting Inc. A respected educator with experience with the European Commission, Royal Ontario Museum and international schools worldwide, she currently consults on issues in post-secondary and international education.