Using Summer Wisely: Tips for Rising Sophomores

For students seeking to attend selective universities, unfortunately, summer time cannot merely be a time of enjoying lazy indulgence. Instead, it is an ideal 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 sophomores with lofty university goals can use the summer to best support their academic efforts.

Review equation creation and equation solving skills

The majority of students are wrapping up Algebra 1 and Geometry classes by the end of their freshman year. These classes are where the foundations for much of the higher level math work students will encounter are formed. Most important of these foundations are strong equation solving skills and the ability to translate word problems. While the exact definition of the “SAS theorem” will likely not be needed again, strong equation solving and word problem translating skills are needed for EVERY math class you will work through. Additionally, any specific content (like obscure theorems) that is needed in future classes is often reviewed, but these skills are typically not. Keeping fresh on these skills, or working with a tutor to ensure you have truly mastered them, will be important for your success as you encounter more and more challenging math content. Not to mention that these skills are two of the most important for success on the SAT and ACT math sections as well!

Our recommendations:

"Stay Fresh"

The app store has a multitude of math apps designed for student use. Try and do at least an hour a week of both word problems and equation solving practice.

"Catch Up"

If you don’t feel confident in your equation solving or word problem skills, the summer is a perfect time to work with a private tutor to bring you up to speed. Make sure you learn the key word phrases that translate to mathematical operations and do lots of equation solving drills. It is also very important that your tutor adapt your program to your current level, as you cannot master these skills if you are missing any of the elements of the foundation.

Preparation for academic classes.

Strong reading comprehension and writing skills will almost always guarantee success in ANY academic class or standardized exam. Not only are these essential in English classes and standardized exams like the SAT and ACT, but strong reading and writing skills will greatly improve your performance in history classes, government classes, math and science classes, college coursework, and even, eventually, in the work force. These two skills, however, are also the “longest standing” skills to build and typically slowly develop over a student’s entire academic career. Without dedicated, or with minimal, coursework dedicated specifically to these two talents, students who may not naturally possess these skills never truly get a chance to catch up. The summertime, however, with fewer academic distractions, serves as the perfect time to catch up, or move ahead of, classmates by actively building reading and writing skills. As Stephen King once said, “to be a good writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” The summer is a great time to do both.

Our recommendations:

Find novels on topics that interest you, ideally at one or two grade levels above your current level to continue to push your reading development and growth. Shoot to read at least 5 books over the course of the summer. Bonus: see if you can get a friend or family member to read the books with you, so you can discuss afterwards!

"Catch Up"

If you feel you already struggle with reading and writing, begin strengthening these skills before it becomes an issue later in your academic career. Meet with a tutor who sets you up with a reading program, meeting every other week to discuss and reading books in between. Your tutor can help build your ability to recognize main ideas, shifts in tone and topic, character perspectives, use of irony and sarcasm and many of the other important skills necessary. Bonus: strong reading skills also improves reading speed, an invaluable lifelong skill.

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.

Get a head start this summer and take a free diagnostic SAT or ACT with ArborBridge.

We'll provide you with a fully customized score report and recommendations to improve on specific areas of weakness. Begin today!


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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