Summer Programs for High School Students Interested in Business

Students Interested in Business

Just as there are a number of business opportunities in college for students, there are just as many pre-business opportunities for high school students in the summers. As early as the summer after 9th grade, students interested in business can explore this field. In my research, I have found that there are a few programs for rising sophomores, even more programs available to rising juniors, then rising seniors have the most opportunities for summer pre-business programs.

The selection process for these pre-business summer programs vary. Some programs only require interest and a tuition deposit. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, because student participants can still learn a lot during the program. The more selective pre-business summer programs may require:

  • Transcripts
  • Teacher Recommendations
  • Test scores
  • Essays

The deadlines for these programs are typically in February/March.

USC Marshall School has a top international business experience for undergrads.
USC Marshall School has a top international business experience for undergrads.

Here are several programs where high school students can explore whether a business career is a match for them:

Stevens Institute of Technology Business Program – students are exposed to marketing, finance (including Quantitative Finance), management, and business law in this one-week intensive experience.

University of Southern California Exploring Entrepreneurship – students earn 3 USC college credits in this 4-week course, which blends business theory and the practice of being an entrepreneur.

Business Week (Throughout the USA) – Several states across the country offer “Business Week” programs, which are one-week business intensives that integrate business concepts, mentoring, and team projects with local leaders. There are Business Week programs in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Colorado
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Washington

If your state is not listed here, you may want to search online with “(your state) Business Week high school students” and see what comes up.

What pre-business summer programs have you found for high school students?


Engineering summer programs for high school students

With the rising importance of STEM fields, there are even more summer programs in engineering for high school students to explore. These programs can range from offering general to specific engineering introductions, project-based learning, or research opportunities. Several programs are focused on introducing teen girls or minority students to engineering since these groups are largely under-represented in engineering careers.

Applicants should expect these programs to be very selective (just as it is in applying to college engineering programs). Selection for these programs may include:

  • Transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Recommendations
  • Essays

Students must pay close attention to deadlines. If a program offers “rolling” admission, then it’s best to apply sooner, since the slots fill quickly once the application opens. For example, your more selective programs may open their applications in January with a rolling admissions and by March all the spaces are filled . . . even though applications will be accepted through May.

Here are a few summer programs for high school students to explore engineering:

Summer Honors Engineering Camp (University of Dayton) – students participating in this camp can learn about chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering through hands-on activities.

Summer at WPI – there are programs for middle and high school students. The upper level program, Frontiers, focuses on lab techniques and solving programs across engineering, math, science and robotics.

Santa Clara University Summer Engineering Seminar – students in this program can discover environmental engineering, robotics, nanotechnology or bioengineering through seminars presented by faculty.

If a student doesn’t have the opportunity to participate in a formal summer program, then I encourage them to consider job shadows and internships in their local community. The experience will be invaluable to learning whether you want to invest the resources and effort to pursue engineering as a major in college.

What summer programs in engineering have you found?


How to answer “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Case studies of 4 college-bound teens

Do teenagers really know what they want to do in life? In short, some of them do and some of them definitely don’t. When I’m guiding my college-bound high school students, it doesn’t matter if they know what they want to be when they grow up. I encourage all my students to consider exploring their interests in the summer.

Case Study 1: “I want to be a medical doctor.”

Becoming a medical doctor is more than just majoring in biology. There are different types of doctors. There are many summer options where high school students can learn more about the medical field:

  • Do research at a university
  • Participate in clinical rounds through a shadowing program
  • Volunteer in a hospital, or
  • Travel on a cultural exchange that supports healthworkers.

Each summer when my students spend time in one of these activities, it always changes their perspective on the health field . . . either confirming their interest, finding a new sub-specialty interest, meeting a new mentor or deciding that they have a totally different interest.

Case Study 2: “I don’t know what I want to do in college or after.”

The most popular major for incoming college freshmen is “Undecided.” That may work well for a campus that offers the flexibility for students to explore different majors and still graduate in four years. If a college doesn’t offer that flexibility, then students can waste a lot of time and money “figuring out” what they want to do. I encourage my high school students to participate in an activity of interest during the summer. In the summers after 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, students can

  • Participate in an academic program on any topic, from history to psychology to physics
  • Volunteer in local community
  • Be creative through the fine or performing arts
  • Get a job or any other purposeful pursuit.

Either way, there is no reason that any college-bound teen should say . . .”I just hung out for the summer” especially if you’re “undecided”.

Case Study 3: “I want to be an engineer.”

This is probably the second most common interest I hear from high school students. I hate to say it but I don’t think that most high school students really know what an engineer does. There are countless summer engineering programs for high school students, especially for girls. Students can learn about the specific fields of engineering as well as meet engineers. Some programs even incorporate a hands-on problem for students to solve. These programs go a long way in helping students to not only learn about the various fields but determine if they like it enough to pursue as a major in college. (The engineering majors are one of the more intensive and time-demanding majors to pursue.) The cool thing about the summer engineering programs is that you can even find programs that are free to attend.

Case Study 4: “I think I want to do business.”

Business is a popular field of interest, yet very broad. When I ask my students which area of business interests them, they often say “management” or “general”. Still . . . very broad. That response tells me that a student has several options for the summer:

  • Attend a summer business program across topics
  • Collaborate on a business project
  • Participate in a job shadowing/internship, or
  • Get a job.

There has been a lot of interest lately in starting a business. For my students interested in entrepreneurship, I encourage them to

  • Check out summer entrepreneurship programs
  • Attend local, small business resource events, or
  • Write a business plan.

Again, with all the different options for high school students interested in any area of business, every teen can find out if this area interests them or not, before going to college.

In our upcoming blog posts, we will highlight specific summer programs for high school students to explore career interests.

Getting your first job after College Graduation and What to expect

College graduates of 2012 are expected to have better-hiring success than the previous classes from 2008 to 2011. Although college graduates reportedly earn close to $1 million more than high school graduates over a lifetime, the landscape for recent college graduates looks a lot different than a generation ago. Here are some key differences that graduates should anticipate:

Delayed gratification – The first job out of college may not be an immediate reward. Graduates may start in a field that’s unexpected, outside of their expressed interests.

Return to graduate school – Remember the phrase about “the new” black and all it implies . . . . well, a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree! And that implies that graduate school will become more important to career advancement.

Multiple jobs – The days of working for one company from college graduation to retirement are so 1980’s. Today’s graduates are more likely to work for many companies and have many types of jobs over their professional life.

A recent survey of job growth shows that sales jobs are abundant. Many college graduates, however, are not as interested in a sales job. It may not be the most glamorous job, but college graduates shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss a sales job. I have found in my career and numerous job changes that sales are a skill that never fades. Many of my colleagues who have been most successful in their careers started with sales training. Sales skills are invaluable to almost every job and life. As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly selling my services and myself. College graduates should not consider a sales job as just “better than no job” but it’s a job where you can learn some valuable skills that will last you throughout your professional journey.


What to do with a degree in architecture – Motorcycle Designer Ed Jacobs

Stanford did not have an architecture program when I attended there many years ago. They did offer industrial engineering and a product design major, which I think is the predecessor to the now-famous D-school at Stanford. There are still students today that may have an interest in architecture or design.

When I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal about an architecture and industrial design graduate, I found the story quite interesting and reflective of how his core skills are translated for today’s needs. This Pratt Institute alum is Ed Jacobs, who designs motorcycles. How cool is this?

Using the computer-assisted design and manufacturing program SolidWorks Professional, Mr. Jacobs is able to develop precise 3-D models of parts and assemblies that can be rendered photo-realistically. When the design reaches its final iteration, Mr. Jacobs emails the file to Birmingham or to one of Confederate’s (the company where he works) suppliers for the part to be produced. The process is well suited to Confederate’s Machine Age aesthetic. Virtually all of the bikes’ structural pieces are milled out of billet aluminum by computer-numerical control CNC machines, which are essentially robotic lathes that precisely reproduce in steel objects designed in virtual reality. It might seem strange that a company that sold only 32 bikes last year would keep a full-time designer on staff. “It’s not just a guy drawing pictures,” Mr. Jacobs said. “The difference is that I’m having to 3-D-model and engineer every single part, from the sketch all the way through the manufacturing, figuring out how things can be tooled in the machines, building jigs, everything.” . . . .when deadlines loom, he will pull all-nighters, as many as four in a row. “Design is a funny thing,” Mr. Jacobs said. “You can keep going and going. Eventually you have to draw a line in the sand, but you keep pushing it to the last minute.”

via Confederate Motorcycles’ Ed Jacobs: The Master of Machine-Age Motorcycles| Creating by Dan Neil –

Many higher education professionals today talk about educating students for jobs that don’t exist yet. I imagine that an architect major of 20 years ago, as Ed Jacobs is, likely never imagined that he would use his major in this way. Kudos to him for finding his path! Now . . . where do I get a ruler and drafting table?