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Crowley: Should high school students spend their summers in college lecture halls?

A Penn State University student walks across campus

A Penn State University student walks across campus in front of Old Main on main campus in State College, Pa on July 12, 2012. Credit: AP

High schoolers from around the world wish an answer to this trite question: What do I want to be when I grow up?

The question is more overwhelming now than ever as many colleges look for students who are less well-rounded and more specialized. The same goes for parents who don’t want to pay for four expensive years of experimentation.

So this shift from well-rounded to angular students forces high schoolers to answer the dreadful question during a time that used to be dedicated to relaxing on the beach and hanging out with friends formerly known as summertime.

This past Monday, many colleges opened their doors to high school students. Summer programs seem like an ideal fit for kids and parents alike: Students enjoy time with their peers and gain insight into different areas of study and possible careers, while parents get weeks of child-free vacation.

But are these programs for high school students as perfect as people hype them up to be?

Students pick classes that vary from the fundamentals of business to organic chemistry 101 to gain an insight of what might lie ahead. But high schoolers should not be bogged down in thinking about their careers so early on in life because two things are almost always guaranteed to change: the job market and students’ feelings about what they want to be. Nobody knows what job will be popular in the future, so why spend thousands of dollars on a college program over the summer?

Colleges are less involved in what classes students are taking and are more interested in how many people they can get to come to their summer session. The programs are so expensive that only the upper class can afford them, and college admission officers know that. That is why there are plenty of other ways to become the focused student college admission officers want. Public and private colleges offer many different free programs over the summer that focus on specific subjects. Also, getting a job or participating in local community service efforts can be just as beneficial to a resume as a college summer program.

Clearly, many students think taking a college class over the summer is a great opportunity to build up their resume.

Summer college programs may only benefit those who are absolutely certain of their future path. The students who do not know the answer to the age-old question should consider using summer for what it was originally meant to be: a break from school. 

Patrick Crowley is a Newsday Opinion intern and a high school student on Long Island.