happy child underwater

Hello parents!  As you know, summer vacation is right around the corner!  There are so many hours not to waste.  I like to plan ahead so that my kids are not going to be inundated with SAT test prep, AP level classes, sports, and activities come junior year of high school.  Here are some ideas to get your kids prepared for college admissions.

1) SAT Vocabulary Study:

Kids as young as 6th grade should start learning the vocabulary words that are going to be on the SAT or ACT tests.  Even learning just a word a day during the summer would mean getting almost 100 words under their belt.  There are many fun resources.  We like the flashcards with “punny” illustrations and jokes.

amazon flash cards

We play the memory game with them.  We got them here at Amazon.  By the way, there are so many SAT Vocabulary study guides, books, even fun novels written with SAT words in context.  Just pick one and go through the words.

It’s also useful to be strategic in teaching vocabulary to your children.  First, use the vocabulary words in daily life:  “Stop being belligerent toward your brother.”  “You were so perspicacious when you noticed that detail in the book!”  We may sound weird, but it’s ok.  Second, teach word roots–Latin/Greek roots of words.  Most of the SAT Vocab study guides have a list of good roots to know, e.g. trans, circum, amb.  Third, teach meanings of prefixes and suffixes so that even if they do not know the vocabulary word, they can figure it out by picking the word apart.

2) Invest time and effort into their activities

The summer is a good time to spend some time and effort on the activities that your children enjoy and hope to get to the next level.  For example, my children are in a swim team that practices year round.  During their summer vacations, we try to make as many swim meets as possible, get some extra swim coaching lessons, and try to bump them to the next level.  My kids definitely have more time and energy (less whining) in the summer.  Of course, my time and energy is about the same because I am still working and not on vacation, but I try to flex my work hours a bit so that we can accommodate some of the mid week swim meets.  These days, high school teams require some time in the summer in their camps.  For example, at my local high school, the students in orchestra and band are practically required to attend a two week camp in the summer.  The high school coaches in all the sports offer camps for their team members and outside kids as well.

3) Tutoring or summer school to get ahead in classes

My oldest son, Minster 1, has struggled with math for a while, as his foundations were not solid.  (We probably should have continued Kumon :))  So we are playing catch-up in the summers.  We are doing some math tutoring, going on Khan Academy and honing his skills so that he doesn’t make careless mistakes on his tests in math class.  My goal is to get the kids to be able to finish Algebra before 9th grade, so that in high school, they could take Geometry, Algebra 2/Trig, Precalculus, and AP Calculus BC by senior year.  It would be even better if they get further ahead, so that they can take AP Calculus BC by junior year and then Multivariable Calculus or AP Statistics during senior year.  I’m working on it.  It seems like when I look at college applications these days, many high school students go beyond AP Calculus.  It is getting more and more competitive each year.

4)  Invest into a special life or work experience: Travel or Job

Colleges like to see students who have some working experience and maximized their summers in some way.  Travel is helpful only if it involves some purpose–for example mission trips, language study, teaching English, science or other research.  These opportunities exist with many different types of organizations, and it can even be a family trip together.

Students who had summer jobs signal maturity and responsibility for college admissions.  Students can work at the library, community centers at summer programs for younger kids, lifeguard, etc.  It shows initiative if a student can start their own business during the summer–students can babysit, tutor other kids, mow lawns, walk dogs, code, create websites, even from a young age.

5)  Visit colleges that you are interested in

Although the campuses may not have as many students around in the summer, there will still be campus tours, and some students who are working or taking classes in the summer.  We can talk to students and get a sense of campus life.  It’s a good time to combine a family vacation with a campus visit especially during the summer after junior year.  We will take a historical tour of New England (Boston Harbor, Freedom Trail) when the kids are older and visit U Penn, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and some other schools.

So there you have it!  Have a valuable and productive summer!  And don’t forget to relax as well.