The school year is coming to a close and summer is just weeks away.  Before students empty out their lockers and embrace vacation, there are a few important steps to take to prepare for the next school year, especially for high school students who are going through the college admission process.  The end of the school year should be a time of review, reflection, and celebration.

Before you completely check out for summer, try these following action items that will help you reflect, unwind, and even get a little bit of prep done before back to school.  Then when August does roll around, your gigantic to-do list will already have a few items crossed off.  This article provides students with a handy end-of-school checklist that will help you get on track and make getting into the next school year a bit more manageable.

1. Grab a notebook and reflect on what went really well this year

As the school year draws to a close, it is an important time to stop and reflect on this past year.  It’s also an opportunity to take a deep breath and think about how to best direct your energies in the coming year.  Research shows that reflection is an essential part of learning.  That means that we need time to think about – and talk about – the ways we have processed and applied new information, concepts, and ideas.  When we reflect on what we have learned, ownership of that new knowledge increases – and with ownership comes more application and use of that new skill or knowledge.  Reflection is also a great way to consolidate learning, process our feelings, and share about ourselves.

So, grab a notebook and try to list at least five things that were amazing this school year. You can do this any way you want, perhaps in some writing or artworks if you are so inclined. You can consider these guiding questions:

  • What has been some of your most important learning this year?  
  • What have been some of your favorite experiences this year? 
  • How might you be able to apply what you learned this year in the future?
  • What was the most difficult challenge (or series of challenges) you faced this year? Who or what helped you address those challenges? What opportunities did those challenges create? 

2. Ask yourself what you want to focus on improving next year

The end of the school year is a perfect time to think about implementing new strategies.  Think of the end of the school year as the time to map out your training schedule.  Is there anything you need to improve?  A skill or content you want to learn more about?  Maybe it’s about joining a community service to give your college application a boost? Or developing soft skills, like delivering a great speech in front of the public?  Add it to the list.  This will also set you up for a productive summer vacation while still having time to enjoy, distress, and relax.

With extra daytime hours, summer is also the chance for you to narrow the “achievement gap”.  If you’ve got gaps in your knowledge from the material you’ve already covered, this is going to make it even more challenging to stay up to date, prevent yourself from falling behind, and help you prepare for your first lot of assessments.  On the contrary, continuing good learning habits over the summer positions students to succeed in the coming school year and can even put them ahead of your peers.

If you are a rising junior or senior about to study abroad, summer offers an opportunity for a slow and steady approach to test preparation.  Spending your summer solely preparing for standardized tests, such as SAT or IELTS, is not impactful in terms of strengthening your application, but interspersing some test prep in between your regular summer activities can go a long way toward helping you reach your goal score.

3. Compile a summer reading list

During the school year, most of the books students read may be assigned for class –  now’s the time to choose something you truly enjoy.  Summer gives you the chance to spice things up by reading that is more fun and tailored to your own interests.  Long hazy days of summer provide the perfect reading conditions.  It is also the perfect time to strengthen your reading skills, retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year. 

Researches show that students who don’t read are at risk of falling behind their classmates.  Just like exercising keeps muscles in shape, reading keeps the brain in shape.  If you don’t exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don’t read, you will lose literacy skills.  Reading over the summer is not a suggestion to keep students busy; it’s a critical requirement to help you stay on track for their entire educational career and beyond. It goes without saying that a few simple strategies help set you up for success:

 

  • Start early: Twenty minutes per day for 25 days sure beats 500 minutes in three days.
  • Schedule it: If you make time for reading, you’ll have time for reading.
  • Challenge yourself: A reading challenge journal will help you stay on track all summer long.  Students can also join the Scholastic Summer Reading-a-Palooza  to earn digital rewards for summer reading, or participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program, you’ll earn a free English book after reading eight books.

The local library is always a good place to start looking for book recommendations that might surprise you.  Most libraries sponsor summer reading programs that can be hacked to meet your needs.  Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events. Libraries also provide age-appropriate lists for summer reading.  Don’t limit yourself to books, either.  Include professional books, newspapers, magazines, graphic novels, audiobooks, or even emails, social media accounts, and blogs you want to read. 

4. Dream up your summer bucket list

Summer has always been about embracing a new challenge and then pushing yourself to overcome that challenge in a condensed period of time.  Let’s create a fabulous big summer bucket list.  Telling yourself, “This summer, I’m going to…” isn’t enough.  Instead, take an afternoon or an evening and really think about what project you want to get done, what skill you want to practice, what goal you want to achieve – and then write it down.  Write it somewhere you can see it.  Write it somewhere that’s part of your daily routine (like on your desk, or on your bathroom mirror).

Ensure that your summer has at least one sustained and meaningful activity on the calendar, so that your summer goals won’t be the same as the ones you have been set all throughout the year.  This can be a summer job, athletic training, or even a hobby with a goal in mind.  If your school offers a summer internship, jump on the opportunity! Otherwise, call some local companies that interest you and see if they are open to hiring a summer intern.  There’s no better way to figure out what you want to study in college or what career path you want to strive towards than participating in an internship.

There’s no right or wrong summer activity, just as long as you get something out of the experience.  You can even share your summer goals with your friends, your parents, or publish it on social media.  This positive reinforcement from your social network can motivate you forward to excel.  Find an accountability buddy if possible, having someone to check in with you no matter what your goals are, not only makes you more accountable, but it fills a need for social connection.  A text to your friend saying, “Hey, how’s your summer reading list coming?” or a call from one of your gal pals saying “Hey, I heard you wanted to do yoga this summer! Wanna go with me this week?” can be just what you need to push you towards reaching your goals.

5. Write a letter to your future self

A letter to your future self is a meaningful activity as a celebration of the way things were and the way things might be in the future in your own lives.  No matter how old, you are going to see significant changes in themselves over the next year.  The end of the year is a great time writing to our future selves, setting goals, making predictions, talking about family, dreams, and expectations. 

Write a letter to your future self, with encouragement about why you do what you do.  The little note might go a long way next winter when you need some extra encouragement.  You can record some memories and important learning from the experiences in your class.  You can also write their hopes, fears, and expectations for the next year.  If you have to write a letter to yourself next year’s class, what advice would you give to “him”, or “her?  What should the student do in order to be successful in class?  How about in life? What do you hope to learn in the next school year?

Seal it up in an envelope, and one year from now, deliver it to yourself next grade.  The feeling you get from that delivery from the past is one you will never forget.  Some sentence starters to get you going: One year from now I hope to be… Next year, I will… Right now, I feel…

The end of a school year could be a festive event – a celebration of learning. The end of every school year, even this “special” year of the outbreak, should be climatic and exciting.  We hope you can take this time as a time of review, reflection, and celebration, and get ready for the happiest summer to come!

Whether you spend your summer working, taking summer classes, or attending a summer program, odds are that your summer schedule varies dramatically from the one you keep during the school year.  So choose your plan wisely, set SMART goals with measurable outcomes, and find for yourself an accountability partner if possible.  Last but not least, no matter what your plans are, don’t forget to get out and soak in the sun, find your summertime groove, and enjoy. 

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