We always talk about how families must juggle many, many moving parts along the college prep journey. Fortunately, summer is the best time to get yourself back on track–or even better, to get ahead! Using this time to your advantage can really make a difference.

STEP 1: Set goals.

Summer break is a great opportunity for students to make progress toward reaching their goals. It’s important to know what you’re working toward in order to figure out how you can get there. Defining those goals can help you to clarify your next steps.

Younger students might be working on identifying a career path or beginning to prepare for the SAT and ACT. Rising juniors and seniors should be scheduling college visits, narrowing down their college lists, and working on college essays and applications. Every student’s objectives may be slightly different, so if you’re not sure where you should be in the process, make sure to give us a call at (724) 745-0305 to schedule your next meeting.

STEP 2: Know your resources.

Ensphere members have access to a ton of great tools on Career Cruising and Method Test Prep. We are here to help answer your questions and keep you on track, so if you’re not sure where to find something, just reach out to us! Remember to check out the “Earnings” tab, “Employment Outlook” section, and career videos when researching career paths. Use the “School Selector” tool to find colleges that match your criteria, including the SAT/ACT scores you need to get in, enrollment and graduation rates, and list of majors offered.

Method Test Prep offers a 20-week ACT prep course and an 18-week SAT prep course, which include lessons, quizzes, and full practice tests. Our students who have finished both courses tell us that the courses do a good job of providing a foundation for understanding the content of these tests. The courses are built to be flexible so that you can pace yourself and fit them into your individual schedule. Log in, look around, and familiarize yourself with what’s available to you. Contact Erin at erin@enspherecps.com if you need any help!

STEP 3: Make a concrete plan.

After defining your goals and identifying the resources available to you, your next step is to make a plan. Let’s say, for example, that your goal is to raise your SAT Math score from 580 to 700. Instead of deciding vaguely that you will “study a little bit every day,” be specific. Take a look at the math lessons on Method Test Prep, think about how much time you can devote to studying each week, and outline concrete steps for yourself. You could plan to finish Lessons 10-15 next week, complete a full practice test over the weekend to assess your progress, and so on. Setting specific deadlines and checkpoints for yourself along the way can help you to stick with your plan.

STEP 4: Anticipate obstacles.

Oftentimes, students don’t mind setting goals, they’re familiar with the resources available to them, and they have a plan for moving forward. So why do they still end up procrastinating or getting off track?

Sometimes, the reality of the challenges ahead can feel overwhelming. You might find yourself putting things off because there’s an obstacle in the way that you’re not sure how to deal with, and you end up trying to avoid thinking about it.

That’s why anticipating obstacles can be a huge step toward getting tasks done and getting them done early. It’s a good idea to take a look at your goals and ask yourself, “What challenges might I face?” That way, you’re bringing them to the surface right from the start, and you’re better prepared to handle them if they do crop up.

For example, for many students, the college essay can feel like a scary or uncomfortable task that looms ahead. You might have no idea what to write about, how to structure your essay, or how to stay within the word limit. Instead of avoiding getting started, if you know the essay might be challenging for you, it can help to think about what, specifically, you’re dreading about it and how you can overcome that obstacle. It’s always best to let us know if you’re stuck or having trouble so that we can game plan how to help you finish on time.

STEP 5: Do your research.

When it comes to careers and colleges, you won’t know what’s out there until you look! In particular, when determining whether a college might be a good fit for you, visiting the college’s website can be a huge help. You’d be surprised by how few students take the time to do this! By visiting colleges’ websites, you’ll be able to find out more specific information about the programs you’re interested in. You may even be able to look at the curriculum, read about the professors, and view course descriptions as you think about whether the school is a good academic fit for you.

It’s also smart to visit the “Admissions” section of each school on your list and make sure you understand the admissions requirements and deadlines. Every school might be different when it comes to essays, interviews, and separate scholarship applications. Taking even 15 minutes a day to continue researching colleges can make a big difference and help move you in the right direction.

STEP 6: Ask for help.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help! Talk to your parents, talk to your teachers, and talk to us! There are many people who are here for you and who want to see you succeed. Let us know what’s on your mind and what you need help with so that we can get you there.

If it’s been a while since you’ve visited our office, call (724) 745-0305 to set up your next meeting. If you have any friends or neighbors who could use our help, let them know we’re here! Check out our upcoming workshops, latest podcast episodes, and private Facebook community for more.