Jun 26

5 Mistakes International School Students Make When Planning for Summer

By Cordelia Jin

Summer vacation: an anticipated time of adventure, growth, and opportunity. For international school students, it’s a mix of exciting travels, skill-building internships, and academically challenging pursuits. Students often feel pressured to maximize their summer break to the fullest, frequently traveling and squeezing in academics, extracurricular activities, and internships to build their résumés and grow their experiences.

Yet, in the rush to seize every moment and fill every hour, students often find themselves caught in a whirlwind of overscheduling, forgetting that a balanced schedule of work and rest is the most important.

This blog outlines 5 mistakes that international school students tend to make when planning for the summer. Continue reading to learn how to prepare for the summer effectively and avoid falling into common pitfalls.

1. Neglecting Test Prep

The first mistake international school students often make during the summer is neglecting to study for standardized tests, a critical component of their academic journey. This includes tests such as the SAT, ACT, SSAT, and AP exams, which play a pivotal role in college admissions. These days, preparing for standardized tests solely during the school year simply isn’t enough. Delaying test preparation until the school year begins will lead to increased stress and last-minute cramming. To see meaningful improvement in test scores, it is crucial to dedicate at least part of the summer to focused test preparation, especially if you’re planning to take tests in the fall.

Additionally, starting test preparation early will enable students to dedicate more time to improving their scores. The earlier you begin studying for a test, the more prepared you will be. At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts to success.

For younger students aspiring to test into elite private and boarding schools, it is especially important to begin preparing for entrance exams during the summer. The SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test) or ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination) is used for admissions into many private and independent schools. It is recommended that you start SSAT/ISEE preparation 1 to 2 years in advance. The earlier you start studying, the better your test-taking experience will be. The best thing to do is to take a Mock Test to assess your current level.

For international high school students aiming for top colleges and universities, it is recommended to start preparing for required standardized tests like the SAT and ACT as early as grades 9 and 10.

Overall, students should strive to create a structured summer study plan that includes reviewing test content, taking practice tests, and strengthening areas of weakness. By prioritizing test preparation alongside other summer activities, students can optimize their academic potential and pave the way for future success.

2. Overloading Your Summer Schedule

Parents often believe that filling a student’s summer with as many activities as possible will be the most beneficial and most presentable on a résumé. However, ensuring that the student has ample time to relax and recover from the school year is equally important. It is imperative to note that not every scheduled activity is a productive one. Overloading a student’s schedule can lead to burnout, which could have adverse effects as they transition back into the school year.

While internships, volunteer work, travel, test preparation, and other activities are all valuable experiences, it is essential to keep stress levels to a minimum. Students need time to take in all of the knowledge and experiences they gain over the summer, which makes dedicating time for rest and leisure activities just as important.

Overall, students should prioritize a combination of academic, extracurricular, and leisure activities to maintain a healthy balance and return to school feeling refreshed and eager to continue learning.

3. Ignoring Admissions Consulting

Admissions consulting offers valuable guidance and support, particularly for international school students aspiring to enroll in elite, competitive colleges and universities. A common misconception is that admissions consulting is only necessary during a high school student’s senior year. However, the optimal approach is to begin admissions consulting as early as possible. Starting early offers the student ample time to develop a clear application strategy, craft a compelling personal narrative, and select the right extracurricular activities and academic courses.

For younger students aiming for prestigious private and boarding schools, it is not uncommon to begin admissions consulting as early as 5th grade. High school students targeting top colleges and universities should begin planning as early as grades 9 and 10, strategically working backward to ensure all admissions requirements and milestones are met.

Early admissions consulting elevates the overall quality of a student’s application profile, increases the likelihood of acceptance, and mitigates last-minute stress and cramming. With an Admissions Consultant’s guidance, students can boost their chances of fulfilling their academic goals and gain admission to their dream schools.

4. Overlooking Extracurricular Opportunities

Summer is an ideal time for students to deepen their involvement in extracurricular activities and explore new interests. However, a common mistake international school students face is failing to engage in meaningful extracurricular activities that align with their personal interests and future goals. Without careful planning, students may miss out on valuable opportunities to grow and develop outside of the classroom.

Engaging in extracurricular activities during the summer strengthens a student’s college applications by demonstrating their dedication and proactive approach to personal growth. Colleges and universities often look for candidates who have a well-rounded profile. Extracurricular activities also help students develop valuable skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and time management, which are essential for future academic and professional success. Lastly, pursuing interests that resonate with the student can lead to personal fulfillment and a deeper understanding of their passions and strengths.

Overall, students should take the time to identify and pursue activities that showcase leadership, commitment, and passion. Internships, volunteer work, or specialized summer programs can be excellent choices. These experiences not only allow students to explore potential career paths but also help them build a robust set of skills and achievements.

5. Underestimating the Importance of Reading

Reading is a fundamental skill crucial for academic success and personal development, especially for international school students. For students whose first language is not English, reading is the perfect way to become more familiar with the English language outside of the classroom.

A common mistake students make during the school year and the summer is neglecting regular reading, which can result in a decline in reading comprehension skills over time. Thus, students should proactively come up with a summer reading list comprising a variety of genres, including fiction, non-fiction, and materials related to one’s academic interests. Of course, the best way to motivate a student to enjoy reading is to find books that they are personally interested in.

Regular reading expands vocabulary, sharpens critical thinking abilities, and improves reading comprehension skills. Moreover, regular reading nurtures a lifelong love of learning, creating a passion for curiosity and exploration. Prioritizing reading during the summer not only maintains a student’s reading proficiency but also cultivates a deeper appreciation for knowledge and literature.


Beyond the hustle and bustle of traveling and summer activities, it’s essential to prioritize moments of rest and enjoyment. Scheduling time for relaxation not only prevents burnout but also fosters a student’s personal growth and well-being. Rather than spreading oneself too thin with numerous commitments, students should focus on quality experiences that align with their goals and passions. This way, students can make the most of their summer while setting themselves up for success in the school year ahead.

In summary, international school students should approach scheduling their summer with careful consideration. If the student has any upcoming tests, test prep should be prioritized first. If the student is interested in specific career fields or research areas, they should look into extracurricular activities that will align with their interests and bolster their applications. For students unsure about their college plans, seeing an Admissions Consultant can help them get ahead and start preparing for college admissions early. Finally, selecting a few summer reading books can help enhance the student’s range of vocabulary, consistently engage their critical thinking skills to seamlessly transition back into the school year, and foster a lifelong love of learning.

A well-planned summer will motivate students to give their best efforts during the summer and during the school year. Students will feel energized from a productive summer and from working towards achieving their academic and personal goals.

Start planning today to get a head start on your future!

What’s next?

If you’re currently looking for help with strategizing improvement in reading and math, we can help! For over 10 years, Tokyo Academics has helped thousands of students excel and gain admittance into the boarding and private schools of their dreams. Our tutors, experts in their fields, offer more than instruction; they provide a comprehensive toolkit for academic readiness. Joining Tokyo Academics means embarking on an educational journey that’s about holistic development, ensuring you’re not just test-ready, but future-ready. Let’s turn your college aspirations into reality, one lesson at a time.

If you have any questions about summer planning and how to improve your test scores, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of Tokyo Academics’ expert advisors for a free consultation.

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