Many students are counting down the days until summer break. And why shouldn’t they? They work hard throughout the fall and spring semester!
For these students and their parents, summer test prep or academic enrichment classes may seem tiring and over-taxing. It may be difficult for them to see the life-changing value of summer courses.
So, we decided to have our Head Academic Counselor Ann Ahn answers common questions about the value of summer education.
Rethinking Summer Break
Q: Don’t kids need time to relax and take a break? Wouldn’t a summer course be just too much? We want to go on a trip this summer!
A: The average school year is approximately 165 days, and the average summer break is 84 days. That means summer break is nearly half a school year! When you consider how much your child learns and grows in a semester, it becomes clear that summer break is very long! We can even see this in our children, who ache for summer break but often become bored halfway through.
What does this mean for students?
They have enough time to do it all!
Yes, our kids should spend time relaxing and recharging so they can feel refreshed for the new school year. They can spend this time vacationing, participating in sports, or volunteering, and they will still have time to improve their test scores, grades, or key academic skills. In other words, summer break is too long to just be a time to recharge; it should also be a time to reflect and rethink.
Now days, parenting is hard. College admission trends are turbulent and increasingly competitive. And the competition places great pressure on our children. Our poor kids! So as parents, we have to be smart as to how we are going to help our children deal with the competition. Are they ready to handle the competition? Are they at the top of their class? Or are they struggling?
To be a top performer and a competitive college applicant, strategy is key. Summer break is a great time for you and your children to reflect on their progress in school so far, their areas of needs, and their next goals.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there any subject or topic my child struggled with this year? Is there any subject we want to improve on for next year?
- Why is she behind? Why did she struggle? Lack of understanding? Poor study skills?
- What is the next test my child should be preparing for? SAT? ACT? SAT Subject? How will his test scores benefit his college applications?
- Are there any activities I want my child to try during summer break? Any community services?
- Is the family taking any trips during summer break? For when and how long?
Then put all the answers together to come up with a strategic plan.
A smart academic plan coupled with such a long break could lead to huge jumps in your child’s academic progress! This is when a student’s summer can completely change his or her future.
Rethinking Summer Courses
Q: Once I have my plan, how do I choose which courses my student should take? Will these courses make a big difference in their upcoming school year?
A: Once parents and their child have a strategy, it can help them prioritize what’s most important.
Any test preparation should always be at the top of priorities during the summer. The skills required for successful test-taking is so different from what students practice in school that to make huge improvements, students need consistent, rigorous test training. That’s why the August SAT or September ACT are great target test dates. Students can prepare for these tests during the summer without the demands of their classes. They can devote their energies just to test prep and conclude their summer with an official score! It takes students’ confidence to the next level if they can walk into the new school year with a great test score!
Beyond test prep, there are academic enrichment courses that prepare students for their upcoming Math and Science courses such as Biology, Physics, Geometry, and Calculus. These classes help lay the foundation for a great school year by giving student’s the knowledge and skills they need to ace honors classes.
A Case Study
Last year, one of my students perfectly exemplified the difference a strategic summer can make. She has been an MEK student since high school test prep. She got into a competitive STEM school and came back to me in the spring of her sophomore year. Her grades were struggling because of weak study skills. I met with her and her parents, and I assessed how her study skills were tangled up and knew she needed immediate help. We made a strategy, working around her plans to visit their country during the summer.
Here was our plan:
- Boost study skills – she receive school support tutoring for Chemistry and Math right away
- Summer plan while on trip – we created a text book review plan with online classes for science and math
- SAT test prep – she took a practice SAT test and received a test analysis with a study plan to take with her during her trip
- Return home – When she came home from the summer, she started College test prep during fall and targeted the December SAT.
Her initial SAT score before the summer was 1240, after the summer it was 1320, and on the December SAT, she earned a 1500! From the beginning, she was curious about the medical field, but her Science GPA was not strong enough. Now, her 11th grade grades are very strong, and she is studying for the one of the science SAT Subject tests.
She feels confident about her ambitions to enter the medical field now!
Putting it all together
I’ve seen students grow a head taller over the summer. I’ve seen seen students change so much over summer break, I hardly recognized them in the fall! Just as children grow so much physically over the summer, they can also show tremendous growth academically! Parents, lets be smart and use the summer to change our child’s futures!
-Ann Ahn, Head Academic Counselor
* Check out our Summer 19 courses here!