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Teens are Spending Their Summer Studying Rather Than Working


Landing that first summer job was once considered a rite of passage for American teens. Now it appears this tradition may be fading. During the 1970s and 80s, nearly 70% of 16- to 19-year-olds held a summer job. Last year it was less than 40%. Instead of lifeguarding or babysitting, many high schoolers are now spending their summers in the classroom.

College selectivity appears to be driving this trend. As more students pursue a four-year degree, colleges and universities have tightened up admission standards and lowered acceptance rates. To compete against their peers, students are choosing summer school over a summer job. In fact, there were four times as many students enrolled in summer school last year than in 1985.

Teens are also taking more challenging classes than they were 30 years ago. Calculus, foreign language and computer science courses are more popular than ever. Advanced placement (AP) enrollment is up nearly 40%. Students are studying harder and longer to keep up, leaving little time for work.

There’s no doubt that summer jobs provide their own type of educational experience. Teens learn how to handle responsibility, manage money and get along with bosses and co-workers. But evidence touting the lifelong benefits of a college degree is simply more compelling. For now, those summer jobs will have to wait.