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Distinguishing between good and dubious advice on how to spend your summer

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An article on CNBC.com got me scratching my head and inspired me to write a quick piece about the best way to spend your summer if you are a high school student looking to augment your extracurricular resume for college applications.

One would think by reading the CNBC article that camp is where it's at for students to make the most of their summer breaks from school. I submit that nothing could be further from the truth; however, camp is not nearly as bad as doing nothing over the summer.

While that article is a very good public relations piece for the camp industry posing as a feature story, the truth is that students can find diverse ways in which to pursue their interests and/or passions over the summer without having to get their parents pay $700 a week for camp. Starting one's own business, website, or fundraising endeavor, earning an unpaid or even paid internship or job at the local hospital, doctor's office, advertising agency, or television station, or taking a formal class at a community college are all cheaper and in most cases better ways of pursuing one's potential interests over the summer. Why better? Well, how do I put this? If you have to pay for something that you could get for free (or far cheaper), what does that say about you? It certainly says something about your character, specifically your logic, earnestness, drive, aggressiveness, and overall quality if you need to engage in a pay for play relationship with no barriers to entry other than the size of your (or your parents') checkbook compared to a relationship in which you may be the one being paid or in which no money is transferring hands. Apply this principle to other realms of human existence and you begin to clearly see what I mean. Yet, somehow, the CNBC article fails to mention all of that.

There is no question that some specialty camps that provide students experiences and/or challenges unlike any students could receive elsewhere have a modicum of value. But, by and large, this represents a very small minority of camp experiences.

As a final note for now: remember that all college advice is not created equal. Ask as many people as you can ask about your planned summer activities before committing to them. That way you can ensure - if you want to - that you will be happy over the summer and that your undertakings will help, not hurt, your chances of college admission.

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