School’s out for the summer! There is nothing more tempting to your student after finishing junior year, than to close his laptop, stow his books and vow not to think about anything school-related until the last week of August rolls around. The bad news is senior year takes a little more planning than students want it to and getting a head start can make the fall and spring less stressful and more enjoyable. The good news? Much of what your student might want to tackle can be fun — especially if he plans ahead.
Here are four things to think about during the summer after junior year, along with four ways to hopefully make them a little more fun!
Discover Areas to Round Out Applications
No doubt your student has been working for the past three years and has a variety of interests and activities he or she participates in. That said, summer before senior year is a great time to take a critical look and see what application areas could use some work. If you know your student is light in one specific area that might help in college apps, now’s a good time to think about what could be done to enhance it. For many students, volunteering is something that doesn’t fit into their busy school-year schedule. Summer is a great time to pitch in at a food bank, join a volunteer dog-walking organization, help clean up a local park, etc. And, if your student can convince friends to join, then he’s not only doing some good, he’s getting quality time in with some of his favorite people.
Think About Test Prep
For students who took the SAT or ACT in spring of junior year, this point is moot, but many students choose to take (or retake) their big tests in fall of senior year. The benefit is clear: more time to study. But the drawback is, of course, studying over summer vacation. One way to make it a little more fun for your student is to set him up with a great tutor or use an online tutoring service. Instead of forcing him to go to a prep course that may or may not be personalized, connecting your student with an online tutor allows him to set their own hours and manage their own time. And, even if your student has already taken the SAT or ACTs, they may still need to take an SAT Subject test or two.
Get an Insider’s View of College
Some of your teen’s friends who left for college last fall will no-doubt be back for the summer. Encourage him or her to follow up and get a little more info about what college is really like. Your student may discover that friends who attend big universities feel lost — or that they love being part of a big sports school. Similarly, talking to friends at small colleges can give them insight into what things are like beyond what the guidebooks say. For example, if you live in Florida, you may want to encourage your student to find out how cold it actually gets in the Midwest if he or she is interested in Big Ten schools.
Get in the College Mode
The last thing my daughter wanted to do after a stressful year of school was to think about more school. I encouraged her to take some time to do some research and connect with colleges and other college students on social media. This makes the planning more of a fun, social activity and less of a chore. Social media is an excellent way to learn about colleges from a student’s point of view and ask any questions you might have about college life.
Once school starts in the fall, things will get pretty hairy. There will be tests to take, essays to write, applications to complete, and financial aid to apply for. A little preparation during the summer can help remove some of the last minute anxiety that often comes when you haven’t prepared.
It’s important for your child to recharge over the summer, but it’s also a good idea to make sure they do a little bit of prep for senior year. The more tests that can be taken, research that can be done and boxes that can be checked before the school year kicks off, the easier the entire college application process will be.