Avoiding the Summer Slide (and College Prep Work, too!)

Unfortunately, the “Summer Slide” is not a dance. It’s a term used by educators to describe the very real phenomenon of students losing academic ground over the summer as they use their brains less vigorously.

For students who plan to take the SAT or ACT later this summer or in the fall, or who want to start off strong in their classes, the Summer Slide can put them at a disadvantage.

This is likely more important this year after an extended time with virtual learning during COVID. Your child does need time to recharge this summer especially, but things will go more smoothly in the fall with some preparation now.

So here’s an easy remedy: Read!

Encourage your children (of all ages) to read as much as they can. Some may already have assigned reading from school, but reading can also take the form of pleasure novels, magazines, etc. What matters is that they read regularly.

Some students may also benefit from starting up with math or writing tutoring later in the summer to review what they learned last spring and preview what is coming in the fall. Those who struggle with organization and study skills may benefit from work with an academic coach over the summer as well.

For those motivated to work on their own, here are a few ideas/resources:

Khan Academy: You may know that Khan Academy now offers free SAT prep. It’s also a great place for students to work on various topics in math, science, computing, humanities, art, and economics.

Free Rice: Free Rice is a terrific site that also covers a wide range of subjects (math, vocabulary and grammar, sciences, humanities, geography, foreign languages, etc.). It is fun to use and correct answers donate grains of rice to third world countries!

Explore Interests: Summer is a perfect time to have your child try something new and discover what they are good at, what they like, and what they hate. Whether it is a part-time job, volunteering, or a home-based project, everyone should be doing something in the summer that will help them learn more about themselves as well as build responsibility, independence, and self-confidence. Your child may need your encouragement if they have not yet found something to dive into on their own.

Job shadow: Summer is a good time to have discussions about what your child finds interesting and then seek out an opportunity for them to do some shadowing to learn about a particular field. Try asking friends and neighbors if your child can spend a few hours at their workplace or at least have a conversation to learn more about that field of work.

Finally, for rising seniors, there is college prep work to be done!

  • Complete a list of colleges to apply to in the fall / winter
  • Schedule additional college visits as needed
  • Prep for and schedule interviews as appropriate
  • Decide if additional testing is needed (if so, schedule summer or fall tests and continue test prep)
  • July – Complete the personal statement for the Common Application
  • July – Complete an Activity Resume if you have multiple extracurricular activities to highlight
  • August – Fill out the Common Application and upload the personal statement
  • August – Look for any supplemental essays that your colleges have posted

Believe me, come this fall, your child will be very happy to have completed this work in the summer! (You will be too.)

Recover and Reset This Summer

You don’t need me to tell you that this past year has been rough for many students. Many have shown an increase in anxiety or depression symptoms and need professional help to address that. Others are just sad at the experiences, relationships, and learning they missed out on. And many are feeling anxious about their future, as they are not in as strong a place academically as they would have been without remote learning.

Those who usually receive support to help with their academics may not have gotten the same level of support during virtual instruction. But they may have still been expected to make progress in the same way and they feel frustrated with the disappointing results. Students who struggle in school often feel shame or embarrassment if they don’t end up with the same results as their peers or siblings. This often affects self-esteem. At times, students don’t even want to attempt a challenging situation, as they have become fearful of failure.

The good news is that we can all help our students recover and reset this summer. The most important thing you can do for your child is to let them know that you are in their corner, no matter what results they bring home from school. Tell them that you love them – often! – and help them find things that they are good at. Every one of us has strengths and positive things to share with the world. Focus on those this summer.

Help your child discover things that matter to them. Volunteering may put things in perspective and help your child feel good about putting time in to help someone else. This does not need to be an expensive trip, either. Something as simple as regularly helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries or yard work counts too. Colleges care much more about students possessing positive character traits these days. As parents, we should as well.

Enjoy your summer!

May Flowers May Not Be Enough

May has been designated as Mental Health Month in the US. The number of both youth and adults that are suffering from mental health challenges continues to increase and the COVID year has exacerbated symptoms in many cases.

High school and college students are struggling at an alarming rate and they are not always reaching out for help. Please look at the resources I have posted below to learn about which signs to watch for, and so you can check with your young adult to see if they are needing outside support.

Anxiety for some students stems from academic pressures. In these situations, it really is beneficial to help your child identify what would help. A tutor? An ADHD or academic coach to help with time management, organization, or focus?

If their anxiety or depression is more generalized, a mental health therapist can make all the difference. There is often reluctance to get started and it can take time to find the right person, but it is so worth it to give your child relief and start on an easier path. You may also find that these professionals can lower your stress level as a parent, as you no longer have to be the only adult trying to help.

I also want to point out that these challenges do not magically go away when your child moves away from home to attend college. In fact, if left untreated, the situation usually worsens and can be the reason why your child does not succeed at college and needs to take a leave of absence or is asked to leave. That is tough to recover from and the student often feels a lot of shame and reduced self-esteem as they try to piece things back together at a community college or in a job the following year.

Some students will benefit from living at home and attending community college, a transition program to help them ease into college with additional support, or a Gap Year to add some maturity and an increased sense of who they are and what direction they want to pursue. If your child does not seem ready for a traditional four-year college experience, it is best to look at alternatives.

I hope you and your family stay healthy this spring – both mentally and physically!

P.S. Here is a website with some helpful mental health resources.