In some ways, sophomore year can be a breather. Students have settled into the rhythms of high school, and have some time before the work of college admissions applications starts. That makes it a good time to strengthen the academic and executive functioning skills that will support them when school kicks into high gear junior year.
Because of the pandemic, we anticipate that students will be missing some key academic content or skills needed to excel in their next level classes. Filling in gaps in math, world languages, and other subjects that rely on a strong foundation will be especially important. We like for those prerequisite skills to be second nature to students so that they can readily build on them. Our math and world language diagnostic assessments are a good place to start if you’re not sure exactly what skills your child needs to review.
In addition, reading every day will boost your child’s performance in all classes sophomore year. Even just ten minutes a day will make a difference! Let them read what they enjoy so that they’ll actually do it. Biographies, deep dive articles, graphic novels, and young adult novels are all high interest, accessible reads for this age group.
Don’t neglect executive functioning skills. These are the habits that enable students to follow through and complete tasks. Reflect on what went well and what didn’t this past year. Then help your child make a plan for the coming school year. For example, where will they record assignments and due dates? How will they keep their digital documents organized? What will their after-school routine look like? Figuring out strategies to support these executive functions saves time and reduces stress (for everyone).
Rising sophomores should also practice higher level executive functioning skills like study techniques, test-taking strategies, and self-advocacy skills. These all have to do with how your child learns and how they can show what they know. Unfortunately, these are also the school tasks kids aren’t necessarily explicitly taught and that they prefer to avoid. A summer tutor will work with your child to build a toolbox they can pull from throughout the school year. It also gives them a chance to try out different approaches without having to worry about that trial and error impacting their grades.
The college admissions landscape has changed a great deal since the pandemic started, and it’s unclear what it will look like once rising sophomores start filling out applications. Here’s what we’re confident won’t change: GPA, rigor of curriculum, and contributions to a community. These aspects matter the most to schools (and this was the case before the pandemic!). These are not areas students can start giving attention to late junior year when the college admissions process suddenly becomes real. So we want to make sure these elements are on your radar now.
What does this mean for sophomores? Do well in appropriately challenging classes. Participate in activities that interest you and allow you to connect with others. This will look different for each child, based on their abilities, interests, and access. Admissions officers want to know what your child will bring to the school—and they don’t expect them to bring it all! As one college consultant put it in this article, “’Colleges are looking for a well-rounded student body, not necessarily a well-rounded student.’”
A summer passion project is a fun way for students to explore a new or established interest in a structured way. With a tutor, your child will choose a topic of interest, study it in depth, and design a creative project that shows what they’ve learned. Focused, goal-driven work over the summer might lead to a part-time job or volunteer position. It also gives your child the opportunity to practice critical thinking, executive functioning, curiosity, and researching—all skills that will help them succeed sophomore year and beyond.
If your sophomore could use some extra support to boost their skills and confidence, give us a shout.