Jul 05

Summer Game Plan for High School Students

By Michael Freeman

Okay, we admit it — the idea of sitting inside and doing absolutely nothing during the long summer school break sounds, at least at first, like a pretty good one. 

Except that it’s actually pretty overrated. Not only can it get boring quickly, but it’s also counterproductive.  In the new academic year, the price you’ll end up paying for doing nothing is having to work extra hard to catch up with peers who spent their summer getting ahead. 

Luckily, there are countless ways to avoid these pitfalls during the summer months without feeling like you’re still in school or like you’ve added more to your schedule than you can handle. All you need is a game plan. 

Take a look below for a few sample plans that correspond to the grade you will be graduating from (or that you most recently finished).

Grade 9: Setting the Foundation

The summer after Grade 9 is the perfect time to set the foundation for the rest of your time in high school. Here are three things you can and should do in order to accomplish this:

  1. Form Good Habits: Set up a distraction-free study space and establish a doable daily routine that helps you get the most important work done first. Don’t sweat it if you miss a day here or there, or if you feel like you’re not making immediate progress. When it comes to the summer after Grade 9, the most important goal to strive for is consistency.
  2. Explore Your Passions and Interests: What drives you? What do you want to learn more about? What makes you want to push yourself further? Whatever it is, chances are there is a summer camp, academic workshop, or creative group full of like-minded students who would be more than happy to welcome you. (And if you don’t know where to start looking, just ask your teachers or counselors if they know of any organizations that would match your interests, skillset, and schedule.) Bottom line: get involved!
  3. Read Regularly: No matter which classes you end up taking, your remaining high school years will undoubtedly feature a wide variety of texts, from Enlightenment-era political speeches to 19th century literary fiction. This is why it is crucial to challenge yourself to read more than what’s easy or even what you enjoy. Set a number of pages to read through each day or week, and stick to the plan. Add unfamiliar vocabulary and definitions to a flashcard deck, and check your own understanding of a work’s main ideas against reliable online summaries and analyses. Perhaps more than anything else, it is the amount of time spent on these tasks that will save you from confusion and panic in the semesters ahead. 


Grade 10: Building on the Basics

The summer after Grade 10 is all about using what you have learned in the previous year to gain momentum heading into the latter half of high school. You’ll likely need this momentum, too — many high school students consider Grade 11 to be the toughest year of all. But it doesn’t have to feel impossible. Start taking steps toward these five goals during your Grade 10 summer in order to help things go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Start to Consider Career Aspirations: Look for internship opportunities that align with any passions or career interests you’ve cultivated over the years. Getting your foot in the door of a particular industry can be an invaluable way to learn more about a career, narrow (or expand) your professional interests, and form new relationships with experienced mentors who can guide you.
  2. Prepare for Standardized Tests: The death of tests like the SAT has, it turns out, been greatly exaggerated. In fact, it could be argued they are more valuable than ever to universities who want to assess an applicant’s college readiness. Pro tip: join a group class or start taking weekly lessons early in the summer so you can take the SAT as soon as possible without having to worry too much about it in the upcoming academic year.
  3. Understand Your School’s Curriculum Offerings: These will naturally differ depending on whether your school follows the IB curriculum or facilitates Advanced Placement (AP) courses, but both will give you some degree of leeway when choosing which classes to take. Talk to older students who have already taken courses you are interested in and use online resources (such as the College Board website) to get a better understanding of what will be expected of you during the year.
  4. Meet with an Admissions Consultant: They can help you sort out the remaining unknowns, make recommendations that will boost your chances of getting accepted to your top-choice schools, and answer any questions you might have about the future — in other words, help turn your game plan into a reality.
  5. Seek Out Meaningful Volunteer Work or Research: These are not just effective ways to show universities you are committed to your interests and passions, but also rewarding opportunities to achieve something big outside of the classroom.


Grade 11: Focusing on College Preparation

Now that you’ve finished the first three years of high school, it’s time to look ahead to your years at college. 

  1. Create a College List: This list shouldn’t be one that is based solely on rankings or anecdotes. Strive to create a detailed list with numerous reasons why each school would be a great fit for you personally — how it can help you achieve your academic goals and grow as a person, and how you can bring something to the school’s community. Doing this now will also be useful come application season.
  2. Schedule Time with an Essay Consultant: Maybe you’re totally unsure of where to start and feel overwhelmed by all the essay requirements colleges are throwing at you. Or maybe you already have some great ideas for what you want to write, but don’t know how to mold those ideas into an effective piece of writing. No matter what, having a mentor guide you through the process of writing multiple essays can play a massive role in how successfully you communicate your ideas to the admission committee.
  3. Draw Up a Week-by-Week Plan for Applying to Universities: Of course, you should feel free to shift things around depending on the schedule of any given week, but all things considered, you should head into your final year of high school knowing exactly what needs to be done and by what dates. This is crucial for students who want to apply Early Decision or Early Action to a specific school. If this seems like too much to think about during the summer, just remember that it definitely beats last-minute panicking in November or December!

If you follow these game plans, by the time you start your senior year you will have accomplished a lot: your personal and professional interests will be clearly articulated through a range of experiences both academic and extracurricular; your leadership qualities as they relate to these experiences will be well-documented; your best standardized test scores will be solidified and submitted, and your essays will round out your applicant profile in a way that gives universities a clear picture of who you are.

It’s true that prioritizing a summer game plan isn’t always the easiest thing to do. But using just a bit of free time at the beginning of each summer (or the semester leading up to it) is certain to pay huge dividends.

What should international school students do next?

For international school students, it’s important to know that no matter where you are on your academic journey, there is a strategic course of action available to help you achieve your admissions goals. Tokyo Academics has over 10 years of experience helping students get the grades, test scores, essays, and other factors needed to gain admission to top schools around the world. Connect with us today to see how we can help you get into the boarding schools and colleges of your dreams!

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