Summer: Pit Stop, not Final Destination

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

                                           ~ John Lubbock

Summer is just around the corner! Bring on lazing away afternoons at the community swimming pool, sleeping in past 6:30 am, and cruising the strip looking for cheap taco joints! Whatever you plan for this summer, don’t forget that August will come sooner than you think. It’s helpful to view summer more as a pit stop than a final destination. You’ll definitely want to rest and recharge your batteries, but you’ll also want to spend some of your time this summer looking ahead to the fall and getting prepared for the challenges that lie ahead with the next grade level. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to make the most of your summer break!

For all grades (do every summer):

As you finish up one phase of your life and prepare for another one, it’s always good to do some reflecting and previewing of the stage you finished and the next stage that lies ahead. It’s helpful to ask the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how did I do with this past year?
  • What worked? What didn’t?
  • What am I most proud of when I think back on this year?
  • What would I have changed, if possible?

To the rising Freshmen:

In a cycle that you’ll go through several times in your life, you’ve exchanged your “top dog” badge for a “newbie” badge. There’s a big difference between middle school and high school, and you want to make sure you start off on the right foot. A much-needed skill for high school is organization. Maybe your middle school teachers let late assignments and half-completed homework slide. Your high school teachers will be much less forgiving of disorganization. Buy a day planner and start charting out your summer. Also, your teachers will be expecting more of you by way of reading and writing. Now is the time to start building up those skills. Borrow some good books from the library and start keeping a journal to help build organization, grammar structure, and enjoyment of the English language!

Action items:

  • Buy and use a day planner this summer
  • Read good literature
  • Begin a journal

To the rising Sophomores:

You finished a year of high school. Well done. Most likely, some things worked well and others not so well as you transitioned from middle school to high school. You’ll definitely want to spend time reflecting on the past year and how you can make your sophomore experience even better. This fall, you’ll be taking the PSAT at your school. If you score high enough, the test may qualify you for National Merit Scholarship, an achievement that causes colleges to pay attention. I would recommend that you take a practice PSAT and see what your score is. The PSAT can only help you, so it’s worth seeing if you are in range. Also, your sophomore year is the time when AP classes will be starting. Now is the time to do some soul-searching as to whether you can handle an AP English Language class, which is often a pre-requisite for an AP English Literature class during your junior year. Finally, colleges will be interested to see how you spend your summer, be it working or volunteering, so make sure you’re doing something other than pushing buttons with your two thumbs!

Action items:

  • Find out your GPA
  • Reflect on your freshman year
  • Take a practice PSAT
  • Get a job, volunteer, etc.

To the rising Juniors:

You are about to start up the second half of your high school experience, and the college process is going to ramp up a couple notches. All of the previously mentioned pieces of advice apply: reflect on this past year, find out your GPA, look ahead to classes for this upcoming fall, and do something worth sharing in a college essay this summer. Also, you’ll be starting up the SAT/ACT process your junior year, and unlike the PSAT, this test counts. For most colleges, it’s the 3rd most important component of your application behind grades and curriculum. Consider taking a practice SAT/ACT to see how much prep work you’ll want to do before taking the real deal. Also, there’s no time like the summer to visit a few colleges and brainstorm your goals for your college experience with family and friends.

Action items:

  • Find out your GPA
  • Reflect on your sophomore year
  • Get a job, volunteer, etc.
  • Take a practice SAT/ACT
  • Visit colleges

To the rising Seniors:

One more year! One more year! But before you go buying puff paint for your end-of-the-year T-shirt decorating parties, the race isn’t finished yet. Now’s the time to put it all on the line, to show the admissions counselors what a desirable candidate you are! This summer, definitely plan on spending significant time in the car with the ‘rents visiting colleges, taking campus tours, sitting in on classes, and meeting with college students and professors. You should also look through the CommonApp’s list of essay questions and start brainstorming ideas for your college essay. As in previous years, find out your GPA, create your class list for the fall, and make sure you’re in a good place organization-wise and knowledge-wise to keep your grades on the up-and-up in the fall. Remember, colleges look at your senior fall grades too, and definitely want to see the upward trend from freshman to senior year.

Action items:

  • Find out your GPA
  • Reflect on your junior year
  • Visit colleges
  • Start brainstorming college essays

To the rising (college) Freshmen:

The cycle begins anew! Congrats on wherever you are heading! There is plenty that you can be doing to flourish where you’ll spend the next stage of your life, but that’s for another article.

Action items:

  • Do your summer reading (I know, it never ends, right?)
  • Check out classes and professors at
  • Bring less stuff than you think you need!

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