#109 Maximizing Summer: Effective Planning Tips with Cindy McCormick Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  01:05

I was recently blown away by an amazing summer programs resource put together by Cindy McCormack. She’s an educational consultant in California. I was so impressed that I invited her to the podcast to discuss how to make the most of summer for college bound students. Summer offers a unique opportunity for growth and preparation, and we’re here to help you navigate it wisely. My experience with teens and their parents, frankly, is everyone overestimate how much summer time they have and what they can accomplish. So we’re giving you actionable advice. examining how these months can be pivotal in your teens college bound journey will weigh the pros and cons of pay to play programs, ask if they’re really worth the investment, and explore no cost meaningful Summer Enrichment options that offer great value. Timing is key. So you’ll learn when to start thinking about summer plans. And by what date, you may have missed crucial deadlines. I’m Lisa marker Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation planning a summer. That’s not just break, but a step forward in your teens path to college. Cindy, welcome.


Cindy McCormick  02:28

Thank you, Lisa. I’m so happy to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:32

Well, I am too because you seem to be the expert in this area. When I came across and the discussion thread of other ICs independent Educational Consultants like you and me, people were bragging about your comprehensive summer planning list. And when I hopped over there, I’m like, Okay, this lady knows her stuff. And I know you’re weaving it into a meaningful journey for your own clients. So let’s get going. Why don’t we why I mean, that list that you created. And by the way, we’re going to link to it in the show notes so everybody can get it. Everybody needs it. You took so much time I know to do that. So why take that amount of time. Like why such an investment? Nobody’s paying you for it. You’re putting that out there to the wild for good. Why? Why would you take the time to do that? Oh,


Cindy McCormick  03:26

well, first of all, I’m an open book and open share IEC. I know, I think a lot of us do go into this profession do it because we just to have big caring hearts. And when I found was I would be in professional groups, and we would share our resources. And someone would have a list of maybe 30 summer programs that they found, were really useful on someone else would have a list. And I found myself going around and round Googling, going back to list after list and I thought this is ridiculous. It needs to be all consolidated in one place. And if it’s going to be helpful for me, it’s going to be helpful for anyone. And I am not competing with my colleagues. So why can’t we all share and get a little further with that? So it took some time to aggregate and I do have someone wonderful, who I have working with me. And she was able to take all of my lists and make it beautiful. Well, it


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:21

is beautiful. And it is comprehensive. Is this the first year that you created the list? No,


Cindy McCormick  04:26

this is my this might be my third year. It’s been out there. My third season going into summer.


Lisa Marker Robbins  04:33

Okay, so we should say we are recording this in January. We’re going to drop it in early February. And I often have families say to me like we just did our live q&a For my launch Career Clarity course on Tuesday of this week. So here it is January and I gave them your resource and I gave him some other resources and I was really driving home the importance of using summer inside our code Words to get clear on college majors and careers. And it’s easy to get pushback from people like it’s January we just said Happy New Years not even Valentine’s Day yet. Why in the world are we talking about this now? So why why would you have been putting this out into the world? When it’s so cold out? And we’re already thinking about summer?


Cindy McCormick  05:21

Going, we’re hearing about snowstorms. Yes. So I am a teacher before I was a college advisor. And as a teacher, you have to have your curriculum plan for the whole year, you have to know the goal and the timing. What I found, when I started doing the college advising was I was a little late to the game. And every year, I’m gonna back it up a little earlier, what I think makes most sense, and I know this is a real shock is introducing it to my families. I know this is crazy, but in the fall, because there are so many programs with deadlines to apply some even December or January. So what I noticed is if I make it available to them, and I say, Look, this is a great resource. Look at these lists, some deadlines are going to be earlier than you’d expect. At least they have rites of refusal, there will be a handful of families who say, Oh, my gosh, we have to wait till Christmas is over, or the holidays, the New Year, totally understand there are programs for you as well. So it’s very much personalized and tailored to the student and their family, and what level of selectivity they’re looking for in a program.


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:31

Okay, so you mentioned deadlines and programs. Because there there are opportunities to both apply and get accepted. And most of the time pay for those types of programs. And there are DIYs, but part of what’s driving this timeline that you and I espouse is correct. And people could disagree with us. But is that there are deadlines coming up. So as you are curating this fantastic list, like what were the earliest deadlines, and let’s let’s kind of talk about these, we’ll call them pay to play. And let’s start with deadlines, and then kind of talk about who these types of programs might be for. Right?


Cindy McCormick  07:15

Well, in all of this research I did putting the programs into the list, there are some even do September the year before the upcoming summer. Wow. And I’ve had that where oh my gosh, was due in September more than a few. And for sure, some do in December, I would say the majority of these pay to play more selective ones often come due right in the beginning of January. Now is that for everyone? Absolutely not. I would say it’s actually for a small percentage of students who are really going for those exclusive programs. And part of their their motivation is because of the exclusivity. So they might have a college list that’s got some really low acceptance rates. And so they’re trying to show they are capable of that kind of level of perfection and production, etc. For most of my students, I’d say the majority, I think they might look at a pay to play. And you can have ones that aren’t quite as selective. And you can have those deadlines even in April May. But then I find most wonderful thing, this is something I really am proud of as a college advisor is making sure students know you don’t have to pay to make your summer authentic, and self awareness journey. So a lot of my students, it’s the creative ways they find a way to enrich their summer that helps them grow and discover what their strengths are. Yeah, far more than some program that’s already packaged for them. Well,


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:55

I love that you say that because first of all, not everybody can pay to play and we should probably talk about like, I mean, one of the cons is high cost. But even if you do it a pay to play, do a formal program, whether it’s one of those is highly selective, they you know, it’s already past some of those deadlines, or there’s a lot of deadlines for those programs that are in February and March. There’s a tiny bit still left in April or May. So no matter when somebody’s listening to this, they might be able to find some of those programs. But those programs sometimes are anywhere from a few days to a week to a few weeks. So you know your summer if you look at it as being eight to 10 weeks, you know, depending where you go to school. You’re going to do more over the summer than just go do this three day or one week program. So yes, we’re talking about think about these programs, but I think it’s more important, you’re going to actually have more time outside of the time that you would invest in those programs. seems most often to do, like you said, some really creative things to like move the ball down the field on trying to get to this goalpost.


Cindy McCormick  10:10

I couldn’t agree more. And, for example, the pain points you mentioned, are so important, because if any families out there listening, and you might be thinking, I can’t afford it, like we talked about, it doesn’t work for their summer vacation and family time, Trump’s a camp, in


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:32

my view that Amen.


Cindy McCormick  10:35

It might be the student is hearing you. And sometimes their eyes glaze over and they go what? I worked so hard, I don’t know if I’m ready to just jump right into something that feels so academic on my downtime. So one of my favorite things is to go okay, well, maybe you don’t want to do something that feels like you have to. So let’s talk about what you get to do. And what would feel like a reward. And if you can tap into your motivation, what you love to do, and somehow translate into that a learning exploratory experience, home run. And it doesn’t have to cost anything, it couldn’t be a full DIY, so many examples of success. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:15

what am I was you’re talking about that? You and I both know that some colleges on their essays are going to ask kids, I mean, they ask them a lot of things. But I have a good example of what one student in the past that I worked with did one summer, and he was applying to Wake Forest in that year that he was applying, they had a question about how do you express your intellectual curiosity? Outside of the classroom? What are you doing to further that? And it’s not the most common intellectual curiosity questions aren’t the most common, but they certainly get asked. Sure. So he had taken us in the summer he studied, I don’t think it was that summer, I think it might have even been two summers before he was an avid fisherman. And he took it under his belt to on his own, learn about the and I’m probably going to mess up the words because I’m not a science person. But the oxygenation, the oxygen level of bodies of water, how that relates to the speed at which the fish are moving, and what lores should be used to, and this was a stem kid, and he was heading into a pre med he wanted to he was going to study biology and undergrad and go on to medical school, and how that dictates the type of lore that you should use based on the oxygenation level of the body of water. Whoa, DIY


Cindy McCormick  12:42

beats, you’re not gonna get that in a living now,


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:46

though, you’re not DIY related to his passion of fishing, related to his interest of science. Totally, they did on his own. And


Cindy McCormick  12:57

the reason I say right itself,


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:01

yeah, it’s fun to write, it’s easy to write, then, you know,


Cindy McCormick  13:05

the heart, it’s authentic as it could possibly be. And that just jumps off the page, when you’re reading supplemental essays you, that kid is telling what they did was so much excitement, it just jumps off the page.


Lisa Marker Robbins  13:19

And that’s the stuff that the colleges are looking for. Right. Right. That authenticity. Yes, absolutely. You know, it was interesting. And there was a another thread that I saw professionals like you and me, and somebody asked about, you know, did anybody have experience with this particular pay to play program? And what do you guys, you know, I want feedback on it. And one of the counselor said, you know, well, these pay to play are not worth it, because it’s not going to open the door at that college. And I think that’s, you know, as a mythbuster. You and I know, and we need to say, hey, this does not get if you go to the Stanford, you know, marine biology camp, which that does exist. That’s not Stanford doesn’t go like, Oh, we’re gonna let like you more, you have a better chance of getting in here. And so I think that we should say, I don’t even know if it’s a con, but it’s a reality check. Right?


Cindy McCormick  14:21

Right. And I remember when that I mean, I’ve been around a while I remember when pay to play programs were few and far between, they’re hard to find. We didn’t even call them pay to play. Right. And it was just this oh, there’s a program and finding programs was so tough. Now, there are so many sites that just dump them. But what happened is colleges realized, Oh, we can tout our space over summer to these outside programs. When people see the name of our college, the program’s going to get more people to come because, oh, it’s Stanford. It maybe will increase our chances of getting in. But the people out in the world didn’t realize Stanford’s not sponsoring this program, Stanford is renting out their space. And a lot of cases not always. But you know, you have to do the research, you know, is this Stanford’s actual program? Or is this just utilizing that campus space, and the program is happy to have the Stanford name attached to their camp. And


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:18

even if Stanford or I mean, Duke, I had a student last year do something at Duke. Even if they it’s part of what the university is offering, it’s not renting their facility, they’re still doing it as a moneymaker. And they marketing for your students. So it’s not going they’re selling you a lot of things, their image, their experience, but it doesn’t open the door for your student getting in. So if that’s your primary driver, parents just hear Cindy and I like, that’s not a good reason. To


Cindy McCormick  15:49

do the one that parents asked me all the time, and I know you’re gonna get this as your student, you’re so proud. They’re in their sophomore junior year, and they get this beautiful stamp sealed envelope from a company saying, You are such a great student, your grades wowed us, we’d like to invite you to apply to this prestigious summer program. My friends, that is the definition of you are going to pay and then you will play. They’ll say is this a good one? And they’ll say, Well, it’s not bad experiences experience. So there’s, there’s definitely a pro to attending one of those. But the con is it doesn’t necessarily show any authentic initiative. And the student going above and beyond to explore what they’re interested in what they want to learn more about, and help them narrow down. Maybe I want to one day become a engineer, an architect and an artist. If they’re in one of those programs, it’s more handed to them instead of them going into a little bit more difficulty in figuring out now what can I do? That will fulfill me that isn’t necessarily handed to me for a few bucks.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:02

Yeah, so let’s any Wow. Okay, so pros would be, I think another pro. So we can like, finish up the pay to play stuff would be you do get to experience living away from home living in a dorm. If it’s a residential experience. Some of these colleges, by the way, listeners in your area, might even have an experience. It’s like a day experience, right? It might be several days, but it’s for area residents, and you don’t even stay on campus. But students experience dorms, they experience being away from home, they experience subject matter at a deep level that may help what I love is giving them college major Career Clarity. So there are pros, but the cons would be it’s not going to open the door that you think it is, is going to cost money. What other cons that I’m missing?


Cindy McCormick  17:54

Well, I think what I was just saying about it doesn’t show initiative. Yeah. Now not everything has to show initiative, what I counsel families to do is try to have a balance of both. You can have these programs that open your eyes and teach you things you’ll never have seen. They’ve I say they have really consolidated expertise. They’ll have instructors, and other kinds of experiences that you couldn’t cultivate on your own. So I do love what you’ll get exposed to. But if that’s all you do, you’re not showing the initiative. So it’s really a balance of both in a lot of cases.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:33

All right. So, okay, that brings up like, let’s, what are some of the things that we could show initiative? Because these are going to be the DIYs? So the the kid with the oxygen fish? Yes. Amazing. How what have you seen kids do that are really high value in that DIY space? Oh,


Cindy McCormick  18:57

my gosh, so much. I’d love that us that. So it can be any. It’s like a spectrum. So I had a student who was kind of struggling for motivation. His parents hired me, I think a little bit to kind of like, help him get his act together. So we get students who need a little help in that area. And he I said, you know, let’s do something over summer help you figure out a career a major and he really he was just a leader. He was a popular, exuberant, energetic, get involved in everything kind of kid, not the greatest greats. And he kept saying, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know what I want to do over summer. I just want to surf because I’m here on the California coast. So I said, Okay, how about this? Why don’t you surf? But since you’re so good with people, could you teach someone else to surf? Could you maybe come up with a program that instructs people that you could teach well, we happen to mutually know of a family with a student who was a middle schooler who was on the spectrum and he would get really stressed out in this kid on the spectrum but calmed him down the most was the ocean. Bingo. So my student, the high schooler, worked with the kid with autism. He taught him how to surf. He went out there every day became a big deal. It rolled forward, so that that kid with autism learned how to surf. And it became his outlet. The one who taught him developed a program started teaching other students. And then in addition to that, he met a photographer on the beach, who loved photographing surfers all the time, zoned in on my student with said, Hey, can we work together, I want to use you as they developed a business with teaching kids how to surf, and then videoing it and then selling the videoing and the surf instruction. Amazing program. That’s just one example.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:47

Yeah. Amazing. I had one student who was volunteering at a local food pantry. And she had done it for years. And she was doing it as community service. And it made for a great community essay that the colleges are going to ask students to write about. But she was trying to think of like, she was very interested in design. And so what could she do? And she was trying to come up with new things to do. And I said, Why don’t you look at what you’re doing now and see if you can create your own as well. So she she noticed that the social media, and the newsletter for the food pantry, were just very lacking, you know, I’m sure they were doing everything they could just to get the food and to serve the people that are not marked horses are thin. Yes. So she asked them, and it was unpaid. But it was with an organization that she cared about, it was within her wheelhouse of things that she enjoyed. So she started making social images for them. She started a newsletter for them. And so it was, it was fantastic. It gave her a little bit of like, Yes, I really do like design, I really do enjoy marketing, and entrenched her even more in a strong community. So I hope that like as we’re just spitballing this is what we do in my monthly q&a With my launch live. You know, we call it our launch live q&a with our career course, we just spit ball people bring a challenge, and then we figure it out. So you know, I think even just this like just talk to other people in brainstorm what might be possible. You know, are there any pain points that you see, as you know, so we’re inspiring people to think, and to research what’s out there and consider their options. But are there any roadblocks that you’re commonly seeing your family’s coming up against? I would absolutely


Cindy McCormick  22:39

say yes. And that’s why I love brainstorming. I love creativity. So when parents bring me pain points, I love going well, there was a workaround for that. So sometimes, like the student I mentioned, not having the motivation to really do more what they consider work over summer. So you know, the workaround is, then don’t think of it as work, do what you love and turn it into some sort of passion project. Then there are the athletes, Oh, the poor athletes slash marching band, you know, the kids who have so much land already through their, whatever their extracurricular is there isn’t space. So in those cases, we might do something like, online, or maybe like you said, a day or a three day program where they just get a little exposure cost, we got the workaround to that do it yourself. And sometimes, honestly, it’s kids just needing downtime. And so yes, we respect that. You get your downtime, we protect the whole 10 weeks of summer, and we say okay, how many weeks of downtime? Which weeks? Do you think you could go all in? And we balance that out? So there you go. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:50

I think that’s perfect, because, you know, that you’re designing a lot of people just drift in the summer, right? And they know, and they’re like, Oh, they’re kids, the parents know, their kids need a break, and they do need a break. And parents need a break. I mean, it’s, it’s a lot I was recently in that stage. I’m glad that, you know, those years really are tough fitting everything in. So I think we go in with all the feels about downtime. And so we just start to drift. But the families that drifted instead of even does like design, your downtime, not just design, the the things that you’ll do with meaning. So that summer, just all of a sudden it’s August, and you go, oh gosh, it’s gone and we didn’t get done what we wanted to do.


Cindy McCormick  24:36

That’s when you actually have regrets. You know, I should have done something. So the whole point of my website and all those programs for people to explore is just plan ahead. You do you but think ahead about how you can take advantage of what you love and what do you want to explore and go out and just do something don’t mind which absolutely


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:58

And I even think families that already like through this said, you know, pay to play is not going to be for us. I still think looking at the options can spark innovation, about what you think that you could do DIY so head to Cindy’s website. It is over in the show notes and does it have a quick URL? I don’t even. It’s


Cindy McCormick  25:23

just Cindy McCormick college advising.com.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:26

Okay, so easy. And I’m assuming that’s where you want people to stay in touch.


Cindy McCormick  25:32

Absolutely. We have a contact us if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer. So I look forward to seeing the profit come in and helping people figure out their summers.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:43

Absolutely. Thanks, Cindy.


Cindy McCormick  25:45

Thank you, Lisa.


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:53

Thank you to Cindy McCormick. We’ve covered a lot of ground today. So if you’re listening when this goes live, don’t be tempted to put off summer planning just because it’s cold outside. Your college bound Challenge for this week is to start brainstorming as a family now. Dive into Cindy’s comprehensive list of summer programs to find options that resonate with your teens interest and goals. Balance is essential. Mix structure programs with downtime and family activities. And if you don’t plan to do any pay to play experiences. Let the list inspire your creativity to design something that uniquely fits your team and furthers their college major and career clarity. What matters most is authenticity, and personal growth. Thank you for tuning in to College and Career Clarity. Until next time, start planning stay inspired and keep supporting your team on their journey to college and beyond. Don’t forget to visit Cindy’s resource list and began crafting a summer this both enriching and enjoyable.