Summer break can take on added importance for a young person who has their sights set on preparing for college. With the encouragement of a College Prep Parent, time off from the high school schedule this summer offers a great time for your kid to do some special things that will pay off big in the future. In other words, summer college prep might just provide the most useful college prep of all.
Here are six summer college prep activities that will make a real difference in your student’s readiness for college. (A few of them might even impact their learning for a lifetime.)
1. Reading Regularly
For those college-bound kids who are already readers, they now have the chance to read all the stuff they have wanted to (without the assigned school material getting in the way). Kids already in the reading habit don’t have to be sold on the benefits – they just need a chance. But if your kid finds reading boring or difficult, summer offers a time to get into the habit a little bit more. With the goal of college success in mind, perhaps they’ll have a little more motivation. Students need reading stamina and great reading comprehension to thrive in college.
What to read? One helpful idea involves using the list of books they will read for their high school classes or college classes next fall. They can start on some of these books while they actually have time to enjoy them! Even if they need to brush up on them again when class starts, they will be way ahead of the game.
Another great option is reading important works from your student’s potential careers or college majors. This practice can prove invaluable later. For one thing, it builds their interest and helps them make decisions about their major or career. On the other hand, “What have you been reading lately?” is also a frequent question in college application and scholarship interviews!
2. Writing Well
Writing is a skill that equips the student both to succeed in college classes and to provide the effective written communication necessary in the workplace. I often hear college professors lament the fact that poor writing impedes the progress of otherwise talented students. Because a student’s summer can fill up with short texts and tweets, some really bad habits can form when it comes to a student’s writing skills. So summer college prep should include some writing that emphasizes – and builds – the writing skills they need to thrive in college.
Apart from formal writing instruction, I have known many students to benefit from personal journaling during the summer. Not only does it keep them in practice, but the thoughts and feelings expressed in these narratives can prove useful. Both now and later, the student can sort through these thoughts as they make decisions about the future.
Writing, like reading, is a skill that can be improved. The College Prep Parent is in a great position to encourage a kid who is serious about enhancing their abilities through a little focused summer college prep.
3. Practicing Purposeful Memorization
Challenge your college prep kid to Google, “benefits of memorization.” They will find several informative entries and may be in for a surprise. There is a lot of research on the educational and lifetime benefits of working out one’s brain through memorization. The bottom line: The more someone uses their brain for memorization, the easier it gets to remember things.
Summer provides a great time to start working on this form of college prep. Long ago I noticed that the more I memorized Scripture, the easier it got. That’s one idea that is not only good for your brain, but it can be transformational for your life. Other great topics for memorization could be key facts in your child’s future field of study. Or they might try memorizing items of importance – from multiplication tables to important quotes – they’ve simply never gotten around to memorizing.
4. Building Their “Big Future”
Bigfuture.collegeboard.org is one website that is a favorite for many college prep kids. Through dozens of short videos, college experts answer many questions about what lies ahead – and that’s just one of the features on this College Board-sponsored website. Other helpful components include information about financial aid and a search tool to find the schools that fit what your student wants in a college. Encourage your kid to check it out once, and it just might become one of their “go tos” for summer college prep.
5. Filling Out Applications
For those now finishing their junior year, this summer is a great time to start on college applications. Gathering info for a high school resume and getting a start on written application portions might go more smoothly before high school “gets in the way” again. (Read this article for four other things high schoolers shouldn’t wait until senior year to start.)
Summer might particularly provide the opportunity to complete the essay portion of applications. Many college applications require an essay, or even two essays. Scholarship contests often require essays, as well. An eager college shopper is wise to spend some time checking out their growing list of colleges to see what the essay requirements are. And for students heading to a school that uses a “common application” (one that covers numerous schools in a state or across the country), essay prompts for these applications are usually announced early in the summer – so applicants can get ahead of the game. Shouldn’t your college-bound kid get started too?
6. Attending College (the Ultimate Summer College Prep)
As for graduating seniors, one popular way for recent high school grads to get ready for college is… to go to college!
Through the years, I have had many students start taking a college class or two just a few weeks after high school graduation. Sometimes they chose a course for remedial purposes, to shore up a weakness. Sometimes they took one specific course during the summer in order to give it their full focus. Other times they scheduled an introductory course to explore a possible major. Whatever your student decides, the ultimate summer college prep might be college itself.
I once heard a student say that they had been worried that they might need a break from school; instead, they found that their college class felt nothing like high school. It turns out that college itself was the break they needed!