"Summer is an Opportunity" by Director of College Counseling Kate Ramsdell
I’ll admit to being old school when it comes to a question we often get in the college office:
“How should I spend my summer?” Or, more frequently, “What might colleges like to see my child do over the summer?”
“Get a job!” I like to say, “No one can argue with the efficacy of a summer job!”
Yet, when I think about the wide swath of opportunities introduced to many of our students—whether they are able to take advantage of Nobles-sponsored travel and immersion or service programs, or a research internship, or college-level coursework—I am amazed by their initiative and focus. As a sixteen-year-old, I didn’t even consider spending a summer doing research or traveling abroad. Nor did I have the kind of guidance that we offer here.
So, I spent nine summers lifeguarding, coaching swimming and teaching swimming lessons. Nine. I worked 45-hours every week and had Wednesdays off—summer weekends meant all hands on deck at the club. I fear I sound a little like the old woman who leans back in her rocking chair and croaks, “Back in my day…” when I share my story with kids, but I stockpiled life lessons and valuable skills during that decade—skills and lessons that I still believe transcend time and vocation.
Simply put, I learned to show up on time. I learned never to leave early and to bank on the fact that, if it rained, I’d be scrubbing mildew off showers and toilets. I learned how to play a mean hand of Rummy 500, how to budget a four-dollar lunch allowance, and how to beat a pack of twelve year-olds at deep-end Shark.
I learned that I could save gas money for the school year by riding my bike to work every day. I learned to respond to an emergency in a split second, to perform CPR and to splint a broken bone. I learned to help an eighty-year-old with early stage Parkinson’s out of the water and how to negotiate a freezing three-year old back into her swim lesson. I learned patience with entitlement and how to hold the line.
I learned to vacuum a deep end, tighten a lane line, and repair a broken lounge chair with whatever tools we had in the office. I learned that hard-working and fair bosses tend to get the most out of their employees and that it’s always good to own up to your mistakes. I learned that if you work really hard you might get a bonus check and an invitation to come back next year.
I made more money in my last summer as a swim coach than I made in my first year at Nobles (that’s the truth), and in hindsight I know that my nine-year summer “career” is, at least in part, what led me to my life’s work. When my counselees share that they’re headed off to intern for a politician at the State House or to spend part of the summer working with underserved populations in far off places, I recognize that the ways in which they will grow and learn will be central to how they will see themselves now and in the future. Part of what we hope we can help our students do is make good choices about how they use their summer months.
To that end, and with the priceless help of Talya Sokoll and Emily Tragert (two of our talented librarians), the EXCEL and College Counseling departments have launched a database of summer opportunities (click here) that we hope you will find to be a useful resource. It is in a beta phase, and we will continue to add to it and fine-tune our search function as programs come to our attention.
In the meantime, though, we encourage you to take a peek. Bookmark it on your favorite browser and come back often. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!