Summer Prep for Every Grade in High School

March 15, 2019

What should you do as a high school student over the summer? If that’s a question you’re asking yourself, relax. Spend your summer break wisely, meaning find a good balance between enjoying your time off to recharge while looking ahead to adequately prepare for the school year.

Rising Freshmen

Starting freshman year in high school is a very exciting yet potentially overwhelming time. There is a sudden rush of pressure. New students, new teachers, new classes. Plus, college application preparation talk becomes increasingly common.

Don’t psych yourself out. While your high school grades are important, your freshman year transcript does not carry as much weight as your latter high school years. So, take this year to really find your footing. Get involved in extracurricular activities you’ve been meaning to explore, and try out for the sports team you’ve always wanted to compete in.

There isn’t much for you to prepare other than a positive mindset to start this new chapter in your life!

Rising Sophomores

Now, that you’ve been around the block once, it’s time to get more serious about your courses.

  • Consider what subjects you want to take next year. Are AP classes something you want to consider?

  • Evaluate your freshman year extracurricular involvement. Do you want to continue those or explore new ones?

  • Learn about the SAT & ACT standardized tests.

This summer is the perfect time for you to reflect on your first year and make a plan for high school. The focus of your preparation this summer is really just re-adjusting your high school plans now that you know what to expect.

Then, it’s learning about what opportunities are out there for you after high school. Familiarize yourself with different parts of the college application process. Think about whether college is an option for you. Start considering what you need to do to set yourself up to pursue higher education, if that’s what you want to do.

Rising Juniors

Things are about to get busy. This summer is best spent on all the heavy lifting prep work you can do, so you can lessen the load during the school year.

  • Plan to meet with your high school counselor.

  • Assess your financial needs if higher education is on the horizon.

  • Learn about FAFSA.

  • Prepare for the SAT/ACT. Whether this means starting to study or just learning about future test dates, get these tests on your radar.

  • Start a rough list of colleges you’re interested in with special focus on the factors that make those colleges interesting to you.

  • Be realistic about your course load and AP classes—strike a healthy balance of course rigor.

  • Understand the different college application programs available to you.

This is the first time you should really consider preparing for the SAT or the ACT. By the end of your sophomore year, you’ll have learned most of the concepts tested on both of the exams and will be prepared to start studying. If you need SAT or ACT test prep help, we recommend working with Magoosh. They are an online test prep that can help you reach your target score.

To start studying for the SAT or the ACT, it’s important to have a target score you are aiming for. This target score should come from the list of colleges you’re interested in. This doesn’t have to be a set list of colleges you are going to apply to. In fact, this list will probably continue changing until well into your senior year.

Your junior year grades matter the most, especially if you’re applying early. Your senior year transcript will not be evaluated yet, so it’s important to have a course load that demonstrates academic rigor without completely overwhelming yourself. Take into account of your extracurriculars, SAT or ACT studying, as well as other obligations; then plan your course schedule accordingly.

Rising Seniors

Summer before senior year is probably one with a lot more pressure. You’re faced with application deadlines and a seemingly never-ending checklist of things to do to get your college applications done. But, that’s also why you have your summer to prepare and make your senior year as manageable as possible.

  • Plan your college campus visits or find ways to connect with current college students (check out our mentoring feature).

  • Find and apply for scholarships.

  • Brainstorm your college essay.

  • Narrow down your college list.

  • Be realistic about your course load and AP classes for senior year.

The summer break gives you a lot of time to really knock a lot of the stuff off your list of to-do’s before school starts up again. By now, hopefully, you’ve already taken your SAT or ACT. If not, this would be the opportunity to study for it and take it before school starts. (Magoosh offers a great study plan.)

Get a head start on your scholarship applications. You may not yet have narrowed down your college list, so as you’re still figuring out where to apply, apply to scholarships over the summer to work toward a financially feasible college outcome. Writing scholarship applications often also inspires students to write their personal statements for college.

Just as you would the summer before junior year, you should also evaluate and be realistic about your course schedule for your senior year, especially the fall semester! Keep in mind how much time you’ll have to dedicate to working on your college applications. You will need to carve out time from any sports and extracurriculars you’re committed to. Go with a rigorous schedule that you can handle with all the other competing interests in the Fall. 

Take advantage of your summer breaks! If you need additional help, you can download our free 4-year PDF guide to help you stay on track. 

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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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