Summer vacation is just around the corner! As students are wrapping up final projects and assessments, taking final exams, and dreaming about the chance to finally sleep in, families might also be thinking about how to spend the holidays. 

Summer programs are a great way to keep children engaged and challenged during the break. They can provide children with opportunities to learn new skills and acquire knowledge, which they may not have had the chance to do during the regular school year. Programs can focus on anything from coding to language immersion to music lessons to athletic and outdoor experiences. They are also a great way for children to make new friends and interact with peers from different backgrounds. This can help them develop social skills and broaden their perspectives. Research has shown that children who attend summer programs show greater academic improvement than those who do not. Particular benefits are seen in children who struggle academically during the regular school year, helping them build confidence and self-esteem.

Selecting the right program can be a daunting task for parents. Older students often use this time to take on work placements and internships, to enroll in summer courses, and to visit prospective university campuses. Younger students might attend summer camps or sign up for summer school. Meaningful experiences over the coming months can go a long way in helping students continue to develop and in ensuring they get off to a strong start the following academic year. For older students, they can make them more competitive during the university application process, and also provide valuable insight into personal skills, interests, and possibilities for the future. As families sit down to plan out these experiences, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to participate in something worthwhile, and just because something costs money, does not necessarily mean it is beneficial. Certainly, it does not mean it is better. Many valuable opportunities can be found right here in Hong Kong. Especially when it comes to humanitarian work, giving back to your local community is just as impactful as doing so in another country. 

Attending a program connected to or hosted on a particular university campus generally does not guarantee or improve a student’s chances of being accepted there. While this experience might provide valuable personal insight into a school or faculty, it is unlikely to make a significant difference in the admissions process. Be sure to look into programs to understand who is really running it, and what their actual affiliations are. 

When looking at programs, ask what the impact or benefit for the student will be. Amassing a long list of experiences that did not matter to the student is less beneficial than a select few experiences where the student was able to truly gain something or enjoy themselves. Think quality over quantity. What really matters, more so than what the particular program was, is what the experience meant to the student, or what they were able to learn and how they were able to grow because of it. Signing up for one day or weekend events are less likely to provide the same benefits as longer programs where students can truly immerse themselves and learn over an extended period of time.  

Above all, it is important for students to take time to decompress and catch their breath after a long school year. To truly excel and achieve their full potential, they need to be well rested and in a positive state of mind to start the school year. Forcing too much on a child can result in burnout, making it more difficult for them to then succeed as the school year starts up again. While we all want the summer to be beneficial, it should also be enjoyable and an opportunity for students to have fun before the pressures of adulthood loom overhead.