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How Students Can Make the Most of Their Summer Vacation

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Summer is a time to sleep in, enjoy evening cookouts, and head down to the shore. But for high school students – especially rising juniors and rising seniors – summer is a crucial time in the college prep process. Even just a few hours spent every week can save a lot of time, energy, stress and money later on. Here is what every student and parent needs to know with summer vacation less than two months away.

For Rising Juniors: Time for Test Prep

There is no better time for a student to study for the SAT and/or ACT than the summer before junior year. It’s the most stressful year of high school: In addition to being the most important and rigorous academic year, there are also finals, sports, clubs, jobs, AP tests and prom. Adding test prep on top of that is a recipe for stress and struggles.

If students prep for the SAT and/or ACT during the summertime, they can take their first tests in the fall–and oftentimes be completely done with standardized tests by winter break. Moreover, they can figure out which test is right for them. Typically, students will score higher on one test over the other, which means saving even more time on test prep. Many students will undoubtedly protest that their parents are being intense and crazy when presented with the idea of summer test prep. And parents may question if their students know enough math or vocab to take the test.

For students, it comes down to managing stress and time. You will be much more miserable doing test prep on top of everything else the second half of junior year. And for parents, your students actually know almost all the content on these tests before junior year ever starts. The SAT barely touches algebra 2; the ACT covers algebra 2 and basic trigonometry. The SAT has a high level of vocabulary, but an extra few months of junior years will not fix that; the ACT uses language that every high school student knows.

In summary, test prep is learning how to take the SAT or the ACT. Use the summer to do so!

For the Rising Seniors: Time for Applications and Essays

Applications may not come out until August 1, but students already know that they will need to write essays. In fact, the prompts for the common app personal statement were released months ago, and many colleges keep the same essay questions every year. This means that a student can pretty much have all of their essays polished and ready to submit before the applications are even available!

It is so important that students do not wait until the fall of senior year to write their application essays. They will have enough on their plate already between the applications themselves, classes, other activities, and the inevitable case of senioritis. Essays are one of the most important components to a college application. They represent the only opportunity for a student to communicate with an admissions officer. Students should not procrastinate and rush to write them at the last minute.

Admissions officers can tell how much effort a student invests into their essays; that is a reflection on how much the student cares about applying to college on its own.

For All High School Students: Time To Do Something

Students do not have to save the rainforest or cure a disease to make their summers worthwhile in the eyes of a college admissions officer. Get a job. Get an internship. Engage in community service. Take enrichment classes. Just don’t bum around all day!

Follow your passions when picking an activity or applying to a job. You can do what you love and build up your resume for college at the same time!

Read More Education, Test and Prep Insights from Eric Karlan
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