Why Summer Work – schoolwork and job – Is Essential for Your Teenager

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“He wakes up late.  He plays X-Box.  He then hangs out with his friends.  He’ll stop back at home for dinner and then he’ll go out again.”  Judy, a mother from Old Lyme, revealed about her son.   But he’s not unusual.  Many of his friends do the same thing.  They think they worked hard during the school year so they deserve the summer off.

I’ll digress and then circle back.

The biggest growth area of The Learning Consultants has been in career counseling, so big that we created a separate entity: Career Counseling Connecticut.

Years ago, during my first forays into college counseling, I saw an interesting dichotomy: those from Connecticut’s old families versus 1st and 2nd generation Americans living in Connecticut.  As a broad generality, students from the former lacked hunger.  Students from the latter – even with parents who were economically successful – were strivers.  The reason was clear: if your family was living off interest that started compounding sometime around the American Revolution, the need for striving stopped sometime in the 20th century.  While getting into a “good college” was an important directive, the combination of doing well enough in high school and having connections to gain admission to name brand colleges prevented a fire from being lit under what I’ll call “the Mayflower descendants.”  1st or 2nd generation Americans were different.  In addition to seeing their parents work really hard, their parents had a mentality that viewed economic life as having no safety net.

Our career counseling business skyrocketed about 10 years ago until today as the Great Recession took hold, largely from the Mayflower descendants, now in their mid-twenties, who had lacked the hunger to work without being directed to do so and now were floundering in their career path.  Most of the 1st and 2nd generation Americans had been working hard, even during the unstructured summer times, and continued to do outside the confines of a college environment.

I realized that one of the bigger differences between the two groups was what they did the summer.  The strivers did summer school work with us – building their skills, or studying in advance for school subjects the next year, or preparing for the SAT – , and often had summer jobs.  The Mayflower descendants generally did not.   Ten years later, the results are very clear as to which path is better.