SAT Prep Course + Summer Job + Staycation= Smart Kid!

While summertime is in full swing in our sunny southern California corner of the world, our teenager is having his own version of summer; preparing for tests, working and vacationing at home will be all the summer fun under the sun he'll be having! As a junior in high school this fall he faces the most challenging time of his academic life. Once referred to as “the best time of your life”, the high school years are now full of extra tests, extra course work (AP anyone?), and extra expense. Long gone are the days high school students could just get a summer job and forget about school for a couple of months. The prospect of preparing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for college, along with a slue of other tests kids will take during this third year in high school, is enough to make anyone shiver in the middle of July!

Deborah Collins, a counselor at our son's high school, gave an example of the test-taking schedule most high school students will have as juniors: “They take the PSAT (Pre-Scholastic Assessment Test) in October, and then take the SAT reasoning test in March, the ACT in April and the SAT subject tests in June. Students have an opportunity to retake these tests in the fall of their senior year.”

Preparing for the SAT is essential to obtain the high scores needed in today's competitive college admissions process. Instead of paying for a private tutor or class to prepare our child for this important college pre-requisite, we purchased a 600 page SAT test-prep book published by a well-known scholastic company complete with seven, yes seven, practice tests. At the end of the seventh test, the last page exclaims: “Don't stop now. We've got even more great info on line”. It also includes a DVD with even more material to cover, and an additional suggested list of books to read over the summer (this sure takes care of any summer leisure reading!). The good part about this type of course is that it can all be done at home.

A couple of weeks before school was out, our teenager went to a job fair and a series of job interviews; he filled out applications for the all-important character-building summer job, and passed the drug screening test. Two interviews later he got a job as a pool concierge at a local resort near our home. The resort is located within walking distance from our house, and just being there feels like a vacation. Sounds fun! We sure hope he sees it this way too because this was not a coincidence at all, but a very calculated move: no commuting involved!

Though our teenager drives, the fact that a tank of gas now costs more than $65 would mean that a good portion of his wages per week would go to pay for his transportation alone should he have chosen to work further away. When he considered this expense was close to the cost of a new video game, and almost the cost of a college application, walking to work won by a landslide.

As many families are doing this summer, we are also embracing the 'staycation' (vacation+stay=staycation). The de rigueur family summer road trip depicted in movies such as National Lampoons' Vacation, is closer to becoming just that: a movie! With our economy deteriorating, and the cost of gasoline now reaching $5 per gallon, it looks like the staycation will be popular with families this summer. Jeff Brown, a contributor for wrote:  “In its annual summer vacation survey, the American Automobile Association said the average North American vacation will cost $244 per day for two people for lodging and meals.” I'm glad our son will be procuring the towels and beach balls for those who can afford this per diem!

Adding to the staycation's appeal is the realization that for college-bound teens everything they do from now on really matters; what they participate in, how they spend their free time, and the jobs they choose are examined as something that could potentially help them or hinder them in an application to their dream college.

So, how could a job as a pool concierge look good on a college application? Perhaps if described as follows:

I chose a job as a pool concierge because it was close to home so I could have more time to study for my PSAT, ACT and SATs, and also save the money I would have spent on gas to pay for my college application fees.

 All this while getting a tan? … Smart kid!


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