Preparing teenage children for summer

Image: Rao Advisors

By Rajkamal Rao

As families heave a sigh of relief to celebrate the end of the long school year and usher in the summer, there are a few tips to make the time off enjoyable and beneficial. Here's our guide, broken down by current grade level. For a full list of outstanding summer opportunities, please check out our popular post #49.

12th grade - students about to enter college
These teenagers are in for a tough but well-deserved transition as they prepare to leave loving homes and venture out into the open world. If they are the kind where the mother and father have done most of the heavy lifting at home - laundry, cooking, ironing, sewing - now is the time to teach them basic life survival skills. Sign them up for a credit card because this will help them build a credit history even if it is the parents who are paying for the card. Teach them basic personal financial literacy skills, including banking, borrowing, and saving. 

If they're already not driving, make sure they quickly acquire a drivers license. Ensure that their passports are in order - you don't want them to miss out on a semester abroad program because their passports are expiring soon. Some schools, like Northeastern University, allow college freshmen to start their first semester abroad in an exotic location, such as Ireland or Italy.
If students have time before they start college in the Fall, they could consider an academic summer program or work or an internship.

11th grade
These children have the most at stake as they enter the senior year in high school. They're also the most likely to have an active summer.

If they have already completed their SAT/ACT tests, invest time to shortlist colleges. Every college which participates in Title IV financial aid, that is, disburses federal grants and loans, is required by law to publish the 25th and 75th percentile SAT/ACT "cutoff" scores. The U.S. Department of Education's College Navigator website is an excellent resource here. Use these benchmarks to initially bucket your desired college into safe, core, and dream categories.

For those colleges which record a campus visit as an expression of student demonstrated interest, we strongly recommend that you take your teenager on an official campus tour. Have your student sit in on an information session, attend classes (although fewer are offered during the summer), have lunch at the cafeteria, and if possible, have the student stay over at the dorm for the night to experience first-hand one of the most important elements of college life. Maintain a log of your visit - we recommend updating thoughts immediately on an iPad or tablet using a campus visit questionnaire.

If your desired college has a firewall policy in place where the admissions office is not even aware of your campus visits (such as elite schools such as Harvard, Yale, Brown and Princeton) and frankly doesn't care that you visited, a virtual campus tour is a great way to learn more about the institution.

Whatever method you employ, use your campus tours to narrow down your shortlist.

Summer is the time when your student must complete the Common App essay, and at least get the outline of supplemental essays complete. Invest in a professional - we have a highly successful track record here - to proofread your student's essays. Remember that essays may ultimately be the most important factor in college admissions. Refer to our primer on essays - and contact us for help.

Finally, summer is the time to continue your extracurricular activities in leadership, service - or even a job. They could consider an academic summer program or an internship. 

8th - 10th grade
These children have earned the right to enjoy their summer, but should guard against the summer slump when the long vacation can cause them to forget key skills they learned during the school year. At a minimum, encourage your children to practice reading, writing and math, using the Khan Academy. If your child is already into reading books, use the Khan Academy website to practice math. We strongly recommend constant practice at the Khan Academy and ACT Academy websites to prepare for the SAT/PSAT and ACT respectively.

Summer is the time to make sure your student's course roadmap for the remaining years of high school is well planned out. Check to see if your student has to meet prerequisites for a course by taking a credit by exam - or take an online course from TxVSN or the UT online school.

Summer is also the time to update your student's bragsheet. For students pursuing liberal arts interests, it is the time to build a profile of their work - recordings, literary pieces, videos, etc. Use the free Coalition Access platform to build your bragsheet and profile. Over 80 top colleges accept the Coalition Access application for admissions.

If students have time, they could consider an academic summer program or an internship.

Key Takeaways
Summer is a great time for children to relax, indulge in sports and pursue their passions. Extracurricular activities are an important part of who students are. Refer to our blog post for tips.

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