Dear Dr. LaScala,
My son is entering high school in the fall. I have an older daughter who is already in college and I know how much money it costs and how competitive it is to get into a good school. My question is how to keep my younger child on track for college over the summer months. We are already into July and he just wants to kick back, relax and enjoy his summer. Any advice would be helpful.
~Summertime and the living is too easy
You are right. The costs of a college education are increasing every year and summertime can provide opportunities for students that are enjoyable and improve their chances for college admission. A top-ranked state university can now cost a family $100,000 or more (including tuition, room and board, books, transportation and the inevitable miscellaneous expenses such as purchasing a laptop). A private school education can cost twice as much. When this type of investment looms in front of parents they rightly wonder about how to keep their student on track for college.
Summertime presents a special challenge because it is well-recognized that significant learning loss can occur during this break from school. Keeping students engaged in educational activities can not only prevent this loss, it can actually enhance learning. This is particularly important for students who are about to enter high school, a time which presents them with a more challenging environment, multiple classes and teachers, longer days and more homework. Since reading is central to all learning, the tips below focus on this activity.
• If you can, participate in some organized program which you and your child pick out together. A quality summer educational program is one way to beat learning loss. But these programs can be expensive and do not always fit into a family's budget or summer vacation plans.
• Go to the local library or learning center to select and check out a few good books. Most libraries have a summer schedule of programs that cater to all age groups. Reading is the key ingredient to reinforcing learning, including developing good writing skills. You can't write well if you don't read well.
• Remember that quality is more important than quantity. One way to estimate the appropriate reading level for your child is to have your student read aloud a page or two from a book that seems to capture his interest. Then listen to how easily the words flow as he reads and ask some questions to check his reading comprehension. Even if your student encounters some unfamiliar vocabulary words, getting the central point of the passages he reads can be sufficient. If your child seems frustrated by the level of difficulty, but appears interested in the story, set it aside as one you will read aloud.
• Schedule uninterrupted reading time in your household. The most powerful incentive for children is watching their parents' behavior. A love of reading is nurtured over time in a household that reads.
• If your child has a smartphone, iPod or some other hand held device try downloading free e-reader applications to their device. No matter where your child is he will have access to an interesting read. And remember reading the news and good magazine articles are powerful ways to enhance learning and stay abreast of current events.
Summertime learning activities need not interrupt summer vacations nor be very expensive. Many activities can be inexpensive, fun, and rewarding.
Elizabeth LaScala Ph.D. guides college, transfer and graduate school applicants through the complex world of admissions. She develops best match college lists, offers personalized interview and essay coaching, and tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth helps students from all backgrounds, including college-bound athletes, to maximize merit and financial aid awards. Contact her @ (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.