Summer Programs for “Undecided” College-bound Teens

It’s perfectly OK if a high school student doesn’t know what they want to major in during college! The most popular major for college freshmen is “Undecided”. In fact, when a high school student is so fixated on a particular major, that’s when I start to worry.


Anyone who has researched summer programs knows there are plenty of options for students interested in medicine, pre-engineering students, and those interested in business majors. Well, if you’re not so sure about which major interests you or just plain want to explore different fields, there are many summer programs that cover a range of topic areas through courses, cultural immersion, and community service.


For my high school students who are unsure of a major for college, I recommend that they try something totally new to get an idea of what they like or don’t like. We set basic program criteria, like the length of program, location, or extracurricular activities to focus our search for summer programs. Whether we focus on academic courses or community service depends on whether there are gaps to fill on their activities resume. The key is finding a summer program that’s a good match for exploring and discovering new interests.


Here are several summer programs that have different program options to choose:


Wake Forest Summer Immersion Institute – while Wake Forest offers many programs focused on specific future majors, there are also ones that are more general, such as health & well-being, leadership, technology and writing for life.

Putney Student Travel – whether a student wants to study abroad or do community service, this program has a range of options. Students may choose to do community service, or language learning, in addition to studying on a college campus.

Northwestern College Prep Program – available in two formats (IN FOCUS for in-person and E FOCUS for virtual) participants get access to professors during a variety of 2-week programs. 

LEAD Global Summer Institute – in this 3-week hybrid program (one week online and two weeks in person) participants will end the program equipped to “think differently” about how they learn and how to apply it. 


What general summer programs have you found to spark new interests?


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?


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?