Grades 8 – 10: Read. Read. Don’t stop – read some more. Reading the back of the cereal box is better than reading nothing. Reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen is better than the cereal box. Reading TIME magazine is WAY better than reading Sports Illustrated or Seventeen. TIME is written on the college level unlike many other magazines. The articles are varied and interesting. I like the actual magazine rather than the online edition. It’s closer to reading an SAT essay. And don’t forget to read what others have written in, the page that used to be called “Letters to the Editor,” and then was called “InBox,” and that now might be called something else. Unlike comments at the bottom of a blog, these letters are well-written, use correct grammar and spelling (or they don’t get published), and are written to try to persuade you that the letter writer’s point of view is valid — much like an SAT essay!
Don’t stop when you finish your summer reading. Look for books outside your usual area of interest. Each genre has a jargon. Reading a mystery isn’t like reading a fantasy. Reading science fiction isn’t like reading a romance or a biography. Or if you’ve read a book before that you liked, read more by that same author. Or read a harder book that has more of what you liked about that other book. If you like chick-lit or romances, read Vanity Fair by Thackery or Jane Eyre by Bronte. If you like Dave Barry, read some Thurber or O. Henry short stories. If you email me what you like, I’ll give you a few suggestions that will bump up your reading skills while you’re being entertained.
Grade 11:Read and follow the advice above for 10th graders. Incoming Juniors should also be thinking about the PSATs that are coming up in October. Most students should just go in and take the test when it’s given. (Don’t worry, your guidance counselor will sign you up and tell you where to go and when.) There’s a free booklet in the guidance department in which the College Board gives you advice about taking the test and a few sample questions. This year, unlike previous years, the PSAT will be something of a mystery. There’s a sample PSAT available (new type), but you can’t make generalizations from one test.
My most important advice for incoming Juniors: start preparing for the old/current SAT. The SAT as we know it will be changing drastically. The first administration of the new test will be March 2016, but I think the January 2016 will be a tough one based on my 28 years of tutoring experience. So far, all colleges that have posted a policy say they’ll accept either the old or new SAT. We have a few sample SATs of the new variety, but again, I’m reluctant to generalize based on a few tests. We have dozens and dozens of the old variety, and I have untold hours of experience tutoring students for that test. Why not take advantage of that? Warning: Students who take the March 2016, May 2016, and June 2016 SATs will not receive their scores until the end of June (and I wouldn’t be surprised if that turned into early July).
Grade 12: Read and follow the advice for 10th graders – when you take a break from college applications.
By now, you should have a list of colleges that interest you. If not, read my blogon how to build a list of colleges. Go visit some. You don’t have to visit all the schools you apply to, but you should have an idea if you like small or large schools, rural, suburban, or urban schools, religious schools or secular schools, and so on.
If you are going to visit, interview with an admissions officer if it’s offered. (Check back on my blog or join Wendy Segal Tutoring on Facebook for upcoming tips on how to interview at colleges.)
You should be writing your college essay this summer.Start now. Don’t wait for your English teacher to mention it. In fact, your English teachers can’t help you much since the topics have changed drastically each year over the past few years and teachers’ “follow this sample” handouts just don’t apply any more. (Again, follow this blog or my Facebook page for upcoming advice.) Go to the Common App website for the most current essay topics (but don’t start a Common App account until August 1st when they open the fall season or you might have to reenter everything!)
Lastly, don’t forget that, no matter how busy your summer is, you’ll be busier in September. Decide which test to focus on, and get busy improving those areas in which you are weakest. Start that essay. Read as much as you can on any and all topics. And let me know if you need some help.
You’ll have plenty of time to relax next year (just kidding!), but right now you should GET BUSY!
Wendy Segal http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com