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High School Guidance Counselors and Advisors: Key Questions for Grads, Part II

To continue the suggestions of under-utilized questions for potential college freshman to consider, we must prompt students to think about how campus size will directly affect their experience.

Small fish in a large pond, or large fish in a small pond? Again, heading off to Penn State, I knew the basic population of students on main campus. What I was not fully cognizant of, however, was how the roughly 50,000 students on campus would greatly alter the academic and social setting, thus transforming the whole experience in unanticipated ways. To my own fault, in the pamphlet and at first glance, student enrollment simply seemed like an arbitrary measure. However, upon showing up to my first lecture for a political science introductory course, the true representation of the campus size revealed itself. My 400+ class involved zero peer interaction, discussion, or engagement. There was no attendance or accountabilitywhich meant you could show up or not, as long as you were present for the midterm and final exam. While some students may thrive on the anonymity of such a setting, it wasn’t until I was immersed in it that I realized that it wasn’t for me.

Guidance counselors and advisors are invaluable resources to help prepare students for the actual experience that a university will present, helping students to better gauge their preferences. Asking questions like, “Do you prefer to fly under the radar of anonymity in class, or are you looking for more personal support from professors and instructors?” “Do you want to see, recognize, and acknowledge classmates as you pass through campus, or do you prefer to encounter, dine with, and meet new people every day?” “Depending on the campus, do you want a quick, walkable commute to your classes, or do you prefer a sprawling walk or bus ride to your lecture halls?” “Do you want to seek out a close-knit group of friends, or do you prefer to fall in naturally with the people that you get to know in the smaller setting?”

All of these questions relate to the day-to-day experiences that students will need to consider before making a decision. Another suggestion, especially with regard to class size, would be to encourage students to sit in on a few classes if possible. A campus tour shows much of the environment, but experiencing classes firsthand allows high schoolers to get a taste of how their education will look. Of course, as students progress and select majors and areas of study, the class sizes will shrink. However, the first 1-2 years of gen eds will reveal the true nature of a large state school versus the small liberal arts environment.

How could you realistically combine your strengths and interests to serve as your leg up in the workforce? This question is difficult for several different reasons. First, it forces students to look critically at their abilities and academic assets. Secondly, this question prompts students to look to the future and anticipate what they might choose as a prospective career, which can be intimidating and stressful. And finally, this question requires students to synthesize two concepts, (strengths and interests), which they may have never thought to combine. The complexity of the question, even if unanswered, helps students to envision how the university will act as a stepping stone toward their development into a self-assured, contributing member of society.

Considering this question also helps students to potentially narrow their post-secondary options. If their strength in math and interest in working with children lead them toward an education major, that student should ensure that their university offers an undergraduate education program. Does the school have a strong math department? Are their teaching internships or volunteer opportunities offered through the university? Would a study abroad program allow for teaching experience overseas? Again, these follow-up questions motivate high schoolers to look more critically at their college options to guarantee that their choices end up checking all of the necessary boxes.

How familiar do you want college to feel? Advisors and guidance counselors will want to ask students about their comfort level regarding the school’s climate, setting, history, demographics, etc. If the school has a reputation for its athletics and Greek life, students may want to consider how much they plan to participate or value those traditions. Are students looking for a serene, lush campus, removed from hustle of the surrounding areas? Or do they prefer a campus immersed in the culture of a thriving city? Do they want to experience cultures, practices, languages, and people outside of their own upbringing? Or do they want to live and study where they feel “at home” and included?

Encourage students to consider which types of school settings and locations will provide them with the most opportunities for growth. Of course, the response will vary from student to student. The goal is for them to envision their ideal college experience and then follow that knowledge.

Finally, not so much a question as it is a consideration: you can always change your mind. Choosing, enrolling, and moving onto campus is not a binding decision. As much as we would like for students to find their niche or match on the first try, this is not always the case. As much as Penn State ended up as a mismatch for me, my time there allowed me to see more clearly what I was looking for in the college experience. Sometimes you have to see what you don’t want before you can realize what you do want. In my case, transferring helped me to appreciate the change of pace, cultural environment, and different class structures that the University of Pittsburgh provided. So as much as we’d like to guide them in the right direction, students should also know that they can always diverge or detour.             

High School Guidance Counselors and Advisors: Key Questions for Grads, Part I

Guidance counselors and advisors at the secondary level have their work cut out for them. Not only are they responsible for the social, emotional, and academic well-being of each child, but their position also requires a great deal of research, recommendations, and paperwork during the college admissions process. I think back to the stress of my own college search, application, and admissions processand let me just say, I would never wish to relive that tumult. Now, think about the fact that, on top of their regular day-to-day roles in schools, guidance counselors also perform that monstrous college application process year after year for hundreds of students at a time.

With the end of the school year approaching, the nation’s high school graduates will be heading off to prove their college and career readiness in no time. Meanwhile, a whole new crop of high school juniors will be starting the college search and application process, continuing through the revolving door that is their high school’s guidance and advising office. A whole host of questions will be thrown at these young, eager students. However, what piques my interest are the many questions that aren’t typically askedquestions that, while they may be less standard, are very telling when students are in the midst of the college search.

How close is too close? There are pros and cons to looking and staying closer to home when heading off to college. Some students find a sense of comfort knowing that parents and siblings are a short drive away. Some even prefer to live at home and commute to campus for their daily classes. Not only will the comforts of homelike laundry and homecooked mealsbe provided daily, but commuters save thousands of dollars on room and board by living at home.

A drawback to this, of course, is the fact that the “true” college experience becomes sacrificed when students live at home. Dorm life, communal dining, late-night cram sessions, and weekend events are all part of living on campus, especially during freshman year. If students have the option to commute to campus, they may still prefer to forgo their childhood bedroom in favor of the independence that campus life brings. It all depends on the person, but ask them, “What is more important to youmaintaining consistency and familiarity, having family support and saving money, or independence, responsibility, putting yourself out there with new people, and the genuine freshman on campus experience?

What do you like to do on the weekends? This may sound like your typical, run-of-the-mill, “icebreaker” question, but the intent behind it is crucial for students who are on the fence between vastly different post-secondary schools. My own experience at Penn State proved to be defining, and perhaps, had I truly considered what my downtime in college would look like, I likely would have made a different decision. Beyond the course loads, exams, and hours spent studying, college life involves a great deal of downtime, especially for students who have masterfully planned a leisure-conducive course schedule.

With this in mind, students need to be ready to fill their time with activities other than parties and naps. In my own case, once the excitement of Penn State’s football season died down, the once bustling Happy Valley became a pretty bleak, homogeneous cow pasture (in my personal opinion). At that point, due to my own ignorance/naivete, I hadn’t really thought about what life would look like during a never-ending winter in rural Pennsylvania. Of course, campuses offer an endless amount of extracurricular options. From clubs, intramural sports, and philanthropic organizations, to mixers, academic workshops, and hobby groupsthe options are limitless. Students just need to ask themselves, “What do I really like to do?” Then be sure that those interests are well-represented at the universities that they’re eyeing.    

How to Plan for Summer Learning Opportunities—High School

For most high school students, there is nothing more exciting than the approaching summer months. At this point in the school year, much of the attention is focused on the freedom, leisure, and flexibility that starts as soon as that final school bell rings. Consequently, as the school year begins to wind down, summer learning opportunities are hardly even a consideration for high school students. They are more concerned about having a break from learning and school work. That said, there are ways that parents can promote various essential learning opportunities for high schoolers over the summer.

An obvious item on the to-do list is for high schoolers to explore their college and university preferences. Besides the thousands of books, websites, information sessions, and other resources that students can consult, summer provides high schoolers with the luxury to actually visit the schools that have piqued their interests. Depending on a high schoolers age, financial and academic options, and overall plans for the future, parents will want to encourage a various range of college visits over the summer. Parents should also encourage high schoolers to visit more schools than they anticipate applying for. The more campuses, schools, and programs that students are exposed to, the better prepared they will be when decision time comes. Additionally, high school students will want to visit schools on alternate ends of the “spectrum.” For instance, students should get the feel for a small liberal arts college versus a larger state school, a school within a closer proximity to home versus one that is farther away, schools with a heavy Greek or athletic following versus schools with a more academic focus.

For students nearing graduation, the summer months may be the final opportunity for students to accrue their remaining SSL (Student Service Learning) hours toward their 75hour graduation requirement. At this stage in the game, admissions officers will look for trends in service and community outreach to get a better idea of the student as a whole. Encourage your high school student to think about programs, foundations, or charities that connect to their future career goals or specific strengths. Again, these service hours contribute to the holistic picture that a high school graduate’s application will paint.

Encourage your high schooler to look into part-time summer employment. More than the extra cash that he or she will pocket, the vital lessons that a first job can provide are truly priceless. The résumé, application, and interview process alone can give high schoolers a real taste of what college and career readiness looks like. Additionally, a summer job, no matter how small, prepares students for adulthood by providing practice of major life skills. Time management, listening skills, following instructions, communication skills, and working in a team or collaborative setting are just a few of the things that I learned from my part-time summer jobs in high school. Furthermore, no matter the job, the employment itself shows admissions officers and hiring managers that this person is reliable, can handle responsibility, and can multitask while taking direction. If nothing else, the summer job provides your high schooler with a sense of independence and self-worth—there is nothing like the satisfaction that comes with that first earned paycheck! (A professional reference never hurts either!)

How to Manage Testing Time: For High School Students

Spring break has ended, which gave high school students a much-needed reprieve from the stressful school day. However, as much as students look forward to this time in the school year, it can also be met with mixed emotions because of the high-pressure testing on the horizon.

In addition to the SAT, ACT, and any other college entrance exams, testing for high schoolers might include benchmark assessments to gauge math and reading growth, as well as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). Because of the “high-stakes” mentality associated with these sorts of exams, the weeks leading up to and during testing can be stressful for students, parents, and teachers. However, there are strategies that parents and teachers can use to help high schoolers prepare for and thrive during these tests without becoming overwhelmed by stress or pressure.

High school students can benefit greatly from having solid test-taking strategies to call upon when preparing for high-stakes assessments such as college entrance exams. For study tips and tricks, the success of certain strategies truly depends on the style of learner.

Some kinesthetic learners work best when rewriting, reciting, or copying notes because of the fine motor movement used for writing. Similarly, test review or recitation while passing a soccer ball, walking on the treadmill, or sitting on a yoga ball could also help kinesthetic learners. Students who benefit from movement should ask if stress balls, fidget cubes, or focusing clay would be permitted during testing. Students may also find that something as simple as chewing gum may help to summon information from memory as well.

Students with a verbal inclination can utilize acronyms, rhyme schemes, and other word associations to solidify information into long-term memory. Some word associations become downright ridiculous or silly; however, the more bizarre the acronym or rhyme, the more likely the information will stick in one’s memory. Composing notecards with information on one side and the “word game” or association on the other side helps to cement the information even more.

We all know that cramming does more harm than good when it comes to test preparation. Not only does cramming increase stress and anxiety, but it actually has been shown to disrupt the process of moving information from short term memory to long term memory. Because of the sense of urgency that students are experiencing when cramming, the process does little more than create a “muddy” recollection of the jumbled material.  

More and more students are finding success with multiple, brief stints of review over the course of several days or weeks prior to an exam. Research indicates that even in intervals as short as eight minutes at a time, students can memorize and grasp concepts much more efficiently. Not only do the rapid intervals reduce the anxiety of cramming, they aid in recall as well. To test out (no pun intended) this study strategy, students should spend 8-10 minutes organizing notes, outlines, terms, concepts, etc., and begin with the most complex or dire information. High schoolers can then return to the material 30 minutes to an hour later, seeking to reread, summarize, rephrase, or synthesize the small chunk of material that they organized during the previous eight minutes. Each day, students should add another aspect of the study material or exam content to their 8-minute review, and expand on the previous days’ content every few intervals. The key here is to tackle the concepts bit by bit in a logical sense and reasonable timeframe. This way, information builds on itself naturally without the overwhelming sense that comes with cramming.

 

How to Solve Problems with Peers: High Schoolers

Conflict resolution is an important skill that adolescents develop over time. As we adults know, it can take years to learn how to react calmly to a disagreement. For the most part, by high school, students have begun to achieve a sense of independence and maturity. However, conflicts, as we all know, are a part of life. Despite the connotation, conflicts do not have to be negative—in fact, conflicts can lead to a much more productive and understanding relationship among peers once the issue has been solved.  

How can we ensure that conflicts among high school students can produce the types of benefits we would like to see? Several strategies can help to ease tensions and foster a greater understanding during tumultuous times.

Remind students that a difference of opinion is just that—a difference. Having a conflicting opinion does not in and of itself equate to an argument. Emotions often only help to stir the pot; so teens and young adults can benefit from remaining calm during these conversations or disagreements. Taking a rational or logical approach to the disagreement, as opposed to an emotional one, will allow students to focus on the problem at hand.

Often times, a small conflict can diverge in several different directions. With each participant eager to make a point and be heard, it is no wonder that many of the small classroom scuffles can swirl into larger, full-blown arguments. Too often, the original conflict balloons into something unrecognizable, to the point that neither party remembers how exactly the disagreement began. With this in mind, encourage high schoolers to keep the conversation or mediation focused on one central issue—other issues may be discussed separately at another time to avoid escalating the situation. Keep all comments related to that central problem.

Active listening is another practice that can help teenagers mediate a situation on their own. With practice, students will learn to listen to a peer without interruption. Let each student know that he/she will have a chance to speak without interruption as well. Remind listeners to maintain eye contact, hold a neutral posture (i.e., no crossed arms), and nod to demonstrate that the other person has been heard or understood. Remind high schoolers to avoid the urge to look away, roll their eyes, sigh in disagreement, or any other gesture that displays aggression, defiance, or rudeness.

Provide students with the option to put their feelings in writing. This also ensures that a message can be thoughtfully prepared without the worry of an emotional delivery. This is also a positive cooldown practice for conflicts that have quickly become more volatile. Remind students to maintain a conversational volume and tone when speaking with a peer. A conflict resolution will not benefit from snarky sarcasm, feisty or angry tones, or yelling. A louder voice turns the listener off and only escalates the emotions involved in the conversation. High schoolers should speak slowly and calmly, being sure to put their thoughts and emotions in clear, concise terms. These open conversations can help each peer feel heard without playing a “blame game.”  

How-to Proofread: For High Schoolers

Once students have reached high school, writing becomes an entirely new beast. From the research project, to a multi-page literary analysis, high schoolers are somewhat expected to have crafted their writing skills to a certain degree. Aside from college, where many of them will be analyzing scholarly articles and writing 20, 30, 40 page papers, high school writing tasks are as advanced as they have seen thus far. Perhaps even more surprising to students, is the fact that lengthier writing assignments will occur in every class, not simply English. With this knowledge, it is essential that high school students improve in their ability to proofread.

  • High school students can use cooperative learning strategies to proofread and peer edit more efficiently. For example, if three students decide to peer edit as a group, one group member should focus his criticism and editing to one area, grammar, for instance. While one group member reviews all three papers for grammatical missteps, another should focus solely on vocabulary, word choice, and spelling. This person should be accessing online thesaurus and dictionaries to ensure that terms and phrases are appropriately used. Finally, the third member of the peer editing group should be in charge of examining content—that is, does the writing masterfully address the prompt? With the tasks split up in such a way, students are more inclined to provide solid, effective feedback—as opposed to the smiley faces and “Good job!” that we teachers are so used to seeing after a peer edit.
  • High school-level writers can streamline their proofreading practice by using symbols or digital highlighting tools to flag errors or areas of need in their writing. Students may want to read their paper through once simply to identify where any issues lie. During this process, they will only mark or highlight areas in the paper where they should revert back to during revision. After issues are highlighted, writers should go back into their paper with a more fine-toothed comb approach. This means that, now that weak or confusing areas in the essay have been identified, they can really dig into making corrections specifically on the sentence level, correcting one line at a time.
  •  As many times as we tell students, it still baffles me that they disregard the warning: DO NOT RELY ON SPELLCHECK! By high school, students must be proofreading on a cognizant, deliberate scale—simply correcting all of the red squiggles will not suffice. Moreover, many spelling or grammar mistakes are mislabeled or ignored by spellcheck software. High schoolers must be prepared to take proofreading into their own hands; their knowledge of writing skills is much more reliable than the computer’s spellcheck.

High schoolers can raise the bar when composing written work by proofreading for sentence variety. They should be prepared to do some major rewriting when sentence variety and complexity is the focus. High school-level writers should be aware of certain clauses and the punctuation that accompanies them. More importantly, students will want to double check that their writing is fluid, clear, and varied on the sentence level—this makes for an elevated paper

 

How to Acquire New Vocabulary: At the High School Level

A robust vocabulary is a key asset when it comes to college and career readiness. I like to equate vocabulary acquisition to a toolbox—the more expansive your toolbox, the more capable you’ll be when fixing, creating, building and assisting. Much like having the right tools for any task at hand, we need to be able to communicate using different manners of speech and appropriate word choice for any number of scenarios. Yes, a hammer and nail can prove to be helpful; however, there are certain to be instances where the job requires more than the standard basics.

Alright, enough with the analogy—how can high school students continue to build a strong repertoire when it comes to vocabulary? Let’s take a look!

Vocabulary instruction and acquisition has drastically changed in even just the last 10 years. My own flashbacks of flashcards (see what I did there?) and rote memorization, while sensible at the time, have proven to be of little assistance to students. Instead of pounding definitions of vocabulary words and teaching terms in a vacuum, disconnected from any real usage, students need more of a real-world approach to adopt new words into their own vocabulary. Exposure is key when it comes to boosting vocabulary at the high school level. In order for students to begin to acquire and use new vocabulary naturally, they must be exposed to a term in both frequent and various contexts.

Consider the term multifaceted—a standard dictionary definition of this word is “having many facets or aspects.” Okay, but what does that really mean? If we want high schoolers to begin to make sense of the word in various contexts, we must model the usage of such terms at home and in the classroom. This accounts for cross-curricular instruction, as well. For instance, students in a geometry class might use multifaceted in the literal context to describe an object with many sides. Similarly, in science, students may examine a crystal or other prism to see how sunlight converges on a multifaceted object. Quite conversely, however, an English or history class might use multifaceted to describe a character or famous person from history with many diverse skills or strengths.   

Another way to look at a term such as multifaceted is to use Latin or Greek roots and affixes (prefixes and suffixes). You don’t have to go into an in depth linguistic study—instead, use a cliff notes-esque approach. When introducing such a word, pair it with other familiar words with the same prefix, like multipurpose, multiplication, multidimensional, etc. Prompt a conversation about what all of these words have in common. Then examine faceted—ask students if this word is familiar or if it reminds them of any other word. For some high schoolers, facet is already part of their vocabulary; for others, you may want to scale the conversation down to “facets sounds like faces, so a multifaceted object has many faces or sides.” These word analogies take memorization to another level. Not only do learners equate the new word to a simpler, already acquired term, but they also derive meaning from the relationship between the terms to help solidify the meaning into memory.

Study Tips for High School High Achievers

For students who have previously excelled in school without exerting much effort, the idea of an intense study session may seem not only foreign, but also intimidating. While these students have grown accustomed to acing assessments, memorizing concepts, and tackling tasks with ease, they may have inadvertently neglected to acquire an essential academic tooleffective study skills.

For gifted students, those who have naturally acquired, implemented, and stockpiled knowledge and content in their classes from previous years, difficult concepts or the sudden need to study in order to retain information can be jarring and frustrating. For these students, school has come easily until now—which means that honed study skills and strategies might be outside of their repertoire.

What can be done for these naturally-gifted secondary students, those who oppose studying out of stubbornness, unfamiliarity, or sheer confusion? Plenty.

1)  Start small with a rough outline of the essential material. For instance, if a high-achieving student in an AP history class is struggling to study for the first time, suggest that she create a realistic timeline for preparing for the assessment. A student who has never had to study is more likely to attempt a cramming strategy—or, non-strategy, if we are being honest. The added stress and lethargy from a long night of cramming before an exam can actually negatively impact the test-taker. As early as possible before an exam, high schoolers should attempt to roughly map out a study schedule that provides them with at least 3-5 days of advanced preparation.

The simple sample outline below for our AP history student could act as a starting point for those students that have never had to make an outline before:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Topic/Concept WWII Key Players Dates Vocab
Actions -Review map

-Chart Germany’s battles/progress

-Assign 1 key point for each significant  historical person

-Make 2nd copy of blank timeline; try to complete from memory

-Highlight most significant dates during the Holocaust

-Define unfamiliar terms from class notes/text

-Use new terms 2x per day until exam

Reminders Look closely at Allied nations Review date/location of start and end of WWII Ask peer to compare to find additional terms

 

2) If the basic outline above is a challenge for your novice studier, encourage her to find reputable online sources or videos that walk students through the process of making a study guide or outline. Often times, knowing where and how to begin can be the most intimidating part of studying for students who have had information retention come naturally for so long. By watching how other successful, experienced studiers compose an outline or gather information for a study guide, reluctant studiers then have a step-by-step resource to help walk them through the process. This is especially nice for parents if high school aged students are vehemently opposed to “doing it Mom or Dad’s way.”

3) Encourage novice studiers to “take small bites at first, then go back for more later.” This principle helps to reinforce memory and recall. If students cram or spend minimal time trying to memorize a concept, they will likely lose vital details prior to the assessment. Instead, once students feel that they have mastered or internalized a concept, prompt them to revisit that concept a few hours later or the following day. This will help high schoolers to understand if the material has been moved from short-term memory to long-term memory.

4) Ask your high school student to “teach” the material to another person. One long-standing concept about learning is the fact that mastery comes when one is able to teach or relay the information to another person. In this sense, students are not only confident in their ability to remember the info, but they take it a step further to explain or translate the information in their own words. Encourage your child to not only review definitions, for example, but come up with his own new definitions. This way, your high schooler will know for sure if he or she fully conceptualizes the term and its meaning.    

Pre-Back to School Advice: For High Schoolers

The high school years are very influential for teenagers on various levels. Students’ personalities, capabilities, and goals are budding during this time—all in preparation to progress into adulthood. With the coming school year, parents of high schoolers can try a few different strategies to ensure a smooth start to the school year.

  • For parents of juniors (or maybe just very eager sophomores), this school year is essential for making plans about what will come next. These pivotal months, in which college and career readiness become the focus, can be an exceptionally stressful time for high school students and their families. Planning ahead, especially before the chaos of the school year picks up, can make all the difference during the college search. Consider providing your high schooler with literature about universities and colleges—The Princeton Review does a great annual compilation of schools full of details, statistics, and admissions information. Plan as many college visits as possible for your family’s schedule—the more students see, the more clear their decisions will be. Although high school teachers and counsellors are very familiar with the need to schedule college visits, try to limit absences by using weekends or occasions when schools are closed to take college tours.
  • The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. However, recent studies indicate that only 15% of America’s high school students can say they get a full 8 hours of sleep regularly. In addition to getting an adequate amount of sleep, high schoolers need to have restful, uninterrupted sleep. Encourage your teenager to silence or shut down the smartphone to achieve a restful night’s sleep. Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter are popular culprits when it comes to sleeplessness in teens. If social media is taking away from your teen’s rest, it may be time to have a conversation about the privilege of cellphone use. As much as they’ll fight tooth and nail for the phone, remember this: you are the parent, you likely pay for the phone, and you know what is best for your child.
  • Insist on organization. Gone are the days of micromanaging every aspect of your child’s education. Looking to the future, problem-solving and coping mechanisms will be essential as your child progresses through adulthood and post-secondary education. Organization is key to being on top of your game. Help your high schooler find the best process or method of organization for him or her. For some, an agenda or planner helps with the week’s tasks. For others, a digital reminder, like calendar alerts or phone apps are preferable. Discuss the importance of prioritizing and time management—these will be essential as your child goes through college.
  • Discuss effective study skills. To many of us, studying involved simply rereading material in an attempt to shove facts into our short term memories for long enough to spill it back onto the exam. This is a very ineffective strategy—if we can even call it a strategy. College professors today are shocked by their students’ inability to analyze text for critical information and think critically about a concept. Instead, like many of us, students feel that cramming and memorization will suffice. Teach your teen how to read for vital information—skimming the fluff and honing in on the critical concepts. Anticipating practice questions or essay prompts is another helpful tip. Jot down ideas or concepts that the teacher repeats, goes into detail with, or spends lots of time discussing. If studying seems to be your high schooler’s weak area, consider looking into tutors or classes that specifically target this area of the learning process.

How to Insert Learning into your Summer Plans: For Parents of High Schoolers

It’s about that time: Teens have worked hard all year and are now experiencing the freedom and relaxation that summer brings. It is arguably the best time of year (especially for teachers!), but there is a downside for many. Over the long summer months, learners have a tendency to forget or lose some of the knowledge and skills that they have acquired over the previous school year. Research and statistics indicate that learning and retention declines noticeably during June, July, and August. As expected, if you are not using it, you are losing it—your knowledge, that is. The key here would then be to continue the learning outside of the classroom, which could prove to be a difficult sell for high schoolers eager to follow their own agendas for a few months.

Instead of approaching this sustained study as school work, parents should consider creatively utilizing certain activities so that the learning is there—only presented as a game, puzzle, challenge, etc. Check out some ideas below to help high schoolers retain information over the summer months.

  • Have your high schooler plan the most time and/or cost efficient driving route for the family road trip. Which route allows for fewer toll roads? Which route currently has the least amount of construction? Is there a route without many rest stops that you would like to avoid? Are there any potential attractions along the way that might interest the group? All of these real-world considerations that parents typically consider could mean a great opportunity for your teen to build or expand upon his critical thinking skills. Add in the concept of planning for gas money, and you have another added layer of math practice. Negotiate stereo control or time behind the wheel for the effort they have put into planning the most efficient trip!

  • Read a recent “book to screen” young adult novel together. Be sure to let your teen choose the novel. Discuss the characters, plot, setting, and make predictions about how you think the story will end. Once you have finished the book, rent or go see the movie. Then discuss how the two versions compare. Did the characters appear how you had pictured them? Was anything in the movie noticeably different from the storyline? What creative choices did the filmmaker(s) have to make to translate the text to the screen?

  • Encourage your teen to begin looking into postsecondary education options. Is she especially creative or interested in visual arts, culinary careers, music and performance art? Browse options for liberal arts schools or specialized programs. Is your teen a huge sports fan, athlete, scholar, or philanthropist? Prompt him to peruse options for schools with a large sports following, abundant athletic scholarships, Greek chapters or volunteer programs. Have your teen build a list of non-negotiables when it comes to colleges and universities. Once you have a good idea of what he is looking for, arrange a visit to the campus.

  • Try a competitive activity like golf/mini golf, bowling, Bocce ball where score is kept. Leave the teens in charge of tracking the score and progress of the game to help maintain a strong memory.

  • Get your teen started on a savings plan or spending budget for the summer. Use some money from a yard sale or other chores to start with a base. Set guidelines for the budget, including a minimum amount that must remain in the “account.” Help your high schooler work towards a purchase of some sort, but make sure that she finds the best price for the item by doing research.

  • When doing any summer baking or cooking for a barbeque or party, have your teen help with the measurements. Ask him to double or triple the recipe to suit the large group coming over.

  • Pick up a second (or third!) language together. From the internet to Amazon, disks, apps, and books for language learners are all over the place. Begin by labeling items around the house to familiarize your teen with certain pronunciations. Consider watching a movie with subtitles, then gradually build up from there.