summer reading outside

Summer break is the time to rest and recharge between school years. It’s important to enjoy summer activities, sun, friends, and family, but it’s also a great opportunity to prepare for the school year ahead. We’ve created a summer checklist for high school students to set themselves up for a successful year.

Checklist for Rising Freshmen

The transition to high school can be jarring! Here’s a summer checklist to start high school with the skills students need to get ahead and stay ahead.

  • Build fast and efficient reading skills. Most high school students will have 50+ pages of reading per night.
  • Preview math and science content to start those challenging STEM classes ahead of the pack.
  • Continue to build writing skills with an emphasis on making the writing process as efficient as possible. High school students are often required to write 3-5 page papers in short time periods.
  • Start laying the groundwork for a great college resume by exploring resume building activities that reinforce and engage a student’s interests. For example, becoming CPR certified can be a pathway towards other opportunities in healthcare, education, etc.
  • Identify local organizations that offer service opportunities. Students can gain volunteer hours, explore their interests, and create valuable relationships.

Checklist for Rising Sophomores

For rising sophomores, this is the time to look ahead at college possibilities. By establishing a preliminary college list now, students can set and achieve the goals that will help them earn admission at their dream colleges. Take a look at this summer checklist for high school sophomores.

For students who already have a dream school in mind:

  • Research and create a list of five to seven additional schools based on the most attractive features of that dream school. For example, if the dream school has a prestigious business program, look into additional schools with strong business programs. Pay attention to size, location, campus life, specific major programs, and any other distinguishing characteristics.
  • Fill in gaps on the school list. If, for example, the list is made up of mostly reach schools, it’s time to start exploring target and safety schools. Learn more about creating a balanced college list here.

For students who do not yet have specific goal schools in mind:

  • Start researching schools using online resources, including school websites, virtual campus tours, and student reviews. Take notes about what seems appealing about the schools, like big vs. small, near vs. far, or online vs. in-person.
  • Tour local school campuses. Even if there is no initial desire to attend one of the local colleges, touring the campus provides valuable insight into the things a student wants and needs in a school. Make campus visits count with these 5 things to do on every college visit.

Prepare for sophomore classes by reviewing performance in last year’s classes.

  • Evaluate end of year grades to identify any gaps, especially in cumulative courses (math, science, foreign languages).
  • Preview material for upcoming classes, especially any AP classes.
  • Create a rigorous test-prep plan. The SAT has gone digital in 2024, so start prep now to be prepared!

Checklist for Rising Juniors

Junior year of high school is a pivotal year for college planning and the admission process. It can be challenging to focus on getting good grades in challenging classes and prepping for the ACT and/or SAT.

Intensive summer test prep will set juniors up for success.

  • With intensive summer prep, rising juniors can make big strides during the summer and then ease back on test prep when school starts. This strikes the perfect balance between maximizing test scores and ensuring strong grades.
  • All juniors should plan to take the SAT between August and December. Many students want to finalize their scores in the fall, so they can focus on their academics and upcoming AP test before the transition to an entirely new Digital SAT test format in 2024!
  • Ideally, students taking AP courses can finalize their SAT or ACT scores by the winter test dates so that they can focus on AP exam prep in the spring.

This summer is also the ideal time for rising juniors to engage with college admissions teams and demonstrate their interest in their goal colleges.

  • Plan campus visits. Visiting several college campuses helps students to make informed college decisions. Taking an official tour also demonstrates interest in the school. Learn more about the value of demonstrated interest here.
  • Research and attend virtual and local admissions events and college fairs.
  • Contact admissions offices with meaningful questions about programs and campus life.
  • Sign up for mailing lists and/or request information from schools of interest.

Checklist for Rising Seniors

Senior year can seem overwhelming for many students. Here’s a summer checklist for high school seniors to stay focused on key milestones.

Remember: the Common App officially opens on August 1. This creates an ideal checkpoint to ensure students are on track to meet college application deadlines.

  • Students can work on their Common Apps before the application officially opens—any information entered will carry over into the 2024/25 application on August 1.
  • Look at last year’s essay supplement prompts for any dream schools. While schools can and do change their prompts from time to time, most colleges retain the same or similar prompts from year to year.
  • Plan to complete the main Common App and/or Coalition App essays by August 1.
  • Before the application opens, prepare portfolios and auditions as needed and write, review, and refine a thorough resume.

Rising seniors should focus on their college essays during summer. College essays take a long time to write and refine, so plan to spend months—not weeks—on these essays.

Whether it be AP test prep, SAT/ACT prep, or help with college essays, C2 Education helps students reach their goals. Schedule a consultation today!