A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how most students lose academic ground during the summer and, consequently, why summertime presents a great opportunity for ambitious students to get ahead. But short of signing up for summer school classes, what specifically can you do to improve your grades and better position yourself for college admissions?
One easy thing to do, whether you’re an incoming freshman or senior, is to read a few good books. Dickens, Hawthorne, Salinger, Dotoyevsky, Steinbeck, Hesse. Classic books that you know you won’t regret having read. The trick is not just to read them, but to read them actively. That is, underline the cool parts, the parts that capture your attention and imagination, for whatever reason. And, to improve your writing skills, pay careful attention to the craftsmanship of individual sentences and the structure of paragraphs. You’ll be surprised that just pay paying attention to the authors’ writing, YOUR writing will improve by osmosis. Yes, it will take you a bit longer to get through each book, but it will make the experience much more meaningful, memorable, and productive.
It’s also productive to write–journals, diaries, letters, emails, blogs, whatever. In other words, you don’t have to write five-paragraph essays or analyses of Hamlet, you just have to write. The more you write, the easier it gets. Like dribbling a basketball or playing an Eb minor scale, practice makes perfect.
Another good idea at all high school grade levels is to study some vocab. My favorite book is Princeton Review’s Word Smart. If you like using the computer, download a free virtual flash card program and make your own flash cards for studying and quizzing yourself.
Finally, if you’re a junior or senior, you should definitely carve out some time for standardized test prep (i.e., SATs and ACTs) and, if you’re a senior, write one or two drafts of your college application essays.
You don’t need to spends hours a day in the summer to get ahead. Compared to how much time you spend in school Sept-June, 30 min to an hour a day should seem like a party. One last bit of advice: plan your work and then work your plan. As the people at Nike like to say, JUST DO IT!