Using Summer Wisely: Tips for Rising Juniors

Junior year for most students is the biggest turning point in their academic careers. Most AP classes begin junior year, bringing with them a new level of academic rigor and expectations. It is also when serious students have to start preparing for the college application process. For rising juniors who seek to attend some of the more selective universities, summer break is a crucial time to prepare yourself for the academic rigors in the school year ahead and ensure that you start the school year on track or ahead of the curve. Below are a few ways that rising juniors can use the summer to best support their academic efforts and college dreams.[mk_padding_divider size="20"]Get to know your graphing calculator. For high achieving students, junior year and above bring some of the most challenging math classes, almost all of which require the use of a graphing calculator. These calculators are not always user friendly nor intuitive, but mastering the use of your calculator is absolutely imperative for success not only in academic math classes, but just as importantly, on standardized exams. It is estimated that on most SAT Math 2 exams, up to 90 percent of questions can be solved using a trick of a graphing calculator. If your trigonometry, pre-calculus or calculus class is not likely to offer you a thorough training on the features of your graphing calculator, using the summer to become familiar with your calculator can set you worlds ahead.

Our recommendations:

[mk_content_box heading="Self-Driven"]If you are a self-driven learner, you can spend a few hours a week reading through the instruction manual and familiarizing yourself with all the features of your calculator. There are also online discussion forums unique to each calculator make and model that you could peruse to find cool tricks and uses of your calculator. Our tips for the most important features you should be able to use are: how to store and access formulas, how to use the quadratic function formula, how to input a set of parametric equations and solve, how to input a function(s) and get an output of roots or points of intersections, and how to get exact trigonometry values (not decimals).[/mk_content_box][mk_content_box heading="Need Support"]If you have a hard time teaching yourself new concepts, find a tutor who can walk you through some of best uses of your calculator. Around 5-10 hours of tutoring over the summer should be sufficient.[/mk_content_box][mk_padding_divider size="20"]Diversifying reading sources. Having strong reading comprehension skills is one of the most important skills for success in high school, college and in your career. The summer after your sophomore year is a great time to begin to diversify your reading experience away from just the fiction or narrative reading you have likely done in your high school English classes. Both the ACT and SAT, as well as almost all university humanities classes, test reading comprehension on argument based texts, which present opinions and/or arguments relating to scientific topics, discussions of human issues and current events. This new style of writing can take some adjustment for many students, who are mainly used to critically analyzing works of fiction or storytelling. Instead of just looking for the character’s feelings, plot development or use of symbolism, students will need to be able to analyze passages for argument structure, purpose/role of lines, and be able to recognize sophistication and subtlety in differences of opinion. You do not want your first experience doing so to be when you sit down to take the SAT or ACT! The summer, when you have free time to dedicate to broadening your horizons, is a great time to familiarize yourself with these texts.

Our recommendations:

[mk_content_box heading="Self-Driven"]If you are self-driven and motivated student, we recommend spending 2 hours per week reading these types of texts. Articles from the “New York Times”, literary magazines like “The Atlantic”, or even the actual texts from past SAT/ACT exams (found in the blue book or red book) are great places to find these articles.[/mk_content_box][mk_content_box heading="Need Support"]If you struggle to teach yourself new concepts or ideas, or you find you are having a hard time understanding these new texts when you read them, working with a private tutor is a great way to further develop your reading skills. Your tutor can recommend articles to read, and you can meet every other week or so to discuss each article. This way you ensure you are not just reading the articles but are also picking up on the important parts of each.[/mk_content_box][mk_padding_divider size="20"]Developing a strong vocabulary early on will be helpful in a myriad of ways, most notably, in helping to further improve reading and writing skills, which you by now know are crucial for academic success. The summer is a great time to start building this vocabulary without worrying about wasting your brain power that you could be using for academic classes!

Our recommendation:

The vocabulary program membean is the best vocabulary building program we have yet to come across. Not only does it calibrate to each student, so you are working at the exact level you need to, but it presents learning words in the way vocabulary should be built: in context through a series of activities designed to target every learning style.[mk_padding_divider size="20"]See where you are starting. Summer after sophomore year is the ideal time to begin thinking about test prep. Some students can begin to prepare starting the summer after their sophomore year and can be done with all their testing as early as fall or spring of junior year, which opens up all your focus senior year to your applications.

Our recommendations:

[mk_content_box heading="SAT"]Take a full-length diagnostic test (remember, this test should mimic test day conditions as much as possible. Getting a test proctored is the best way to guarantee this). If your overall score is within 200-300 points of your target score, or your critical reading score is within 50-70 points of your target score, you are a great candidate to begin SAT preparation the summer before your junior year.[/mk_content_box][mk_content_box heading="ACT"]If you are interested in taking the ACT, which ArborBridge recommends, summer after your sophomore year is a great time to begin thinking about and preparing for the exam. Take a full length diagnostic, remembering to mimic test day conditions as much as possible. When you get your score report, you can talk to your counselor, or a test prep expert like an ArborBridge program manager, about what it means. Based on how well you do, you can either begin preparing immediately for the exam, or you can map out when would be best to begin preparing based on your schedule and scholastic demands. Just so you know, typically students whose reading and/or science scores are at the same level or higher than their math and English scores are the students who have developed enough to begin immediate preparation. Those with lower reading and/or science scores (relative to English and math) typically need a few more months, or even a year, to continue to develop neurologically before beginning intense preparation would be prudent.[/mk_content_box][mk_divider style="thick_solid"]

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Megan Stubbendeck

About Megan Stubbendeck

Dr. Megan Stubbendeck is an eight-year veteran of the test prep industry with ten years of teaching experience. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Virginia, where she taught for three years in the History Department. She has been part of the test prep industry since 2007 and has earned perfect scores on the SAT, ACT, GRE, and multiple AP exams. As the CEO of ArborBridge, Megan oversees all aspects of ArborBridge operations and helped to create our innovative curriculum.

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