Tips From the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN)
Aah; the long, lazy days of summer. Throughout the school year, you look forward to sleeping in and whiling away the hours. This year, use some of your free time to prepare for college. Summer activities for students in ninth through eleventh grades are a great way to get ready for postsecondary education, according to experts at the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN).
Summer college readiness activities aren't limited to practicing math problems. While it's a good idea to improve your academic abilities, you might find other pursuits just as useful and maybe more fun.
Attend summer camp. A summer camp exists for almost every interest, whether it's basketball, computer programming, drawing or biology. Spending a week or so exploring interests also lets you develop interpersonal skills and independence. Look for community organizations that offer special workshops over the summer as well as traditional camps.
Volunteer. You can volunteer in a field related to your career interest or in another area altogether. Besides contributing to the community and helping others, you'll be learning more about the world and other people.
Work part-time. The most obvious benefit of a job is the money you earn, which you can save for college or use for other expenses. You'll also gain valuable experience in the workplace and perhaps some contacts who can help you in the future.
Read. College entrance exams test your vocabulary, and one of the best ways to increase your knowledge of words is to read a variety of materials. Choose a mix of classic and contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama to discover your favorites and build basic understanding. For ideas, search online for "college-bound reading list" or "college prep reading list."
Research colleges. Visit various colleges' Web sites to get a feel for the type of school that suits you best. Try to spend some time on college campuses; visit while summer classes are in session so you can see what it might be like to attend. If you know someone taking classes during the summer, ask if you can tag along for a day or two.
Improve academic skills. Find a tutor for the basics if you want to improve your grades next year, or look for classes your high school doesn't offer. Learning centers and many colleges offer classes year-round either online or in small-group and individual sessions.
Get involved. Some school and community activities run through the summer. Without the added pressure of homework, you might have the time to do something new or take on different responsibilities. Leadership roles teach you to work with others and to be organized, and they look great on scholarship and college applications.
Search for scholarships. Even if it's too early to apply, finding and understanding scholarship opportunities is time well spent. You can choose activities and classes that will help you win scholarships later if you know the award qualifications ahead of time. You'll also be a step ahead of those who wait until senior year to begin their search.
Practice life skills. Soon after high school graduation, you'll be living somewhat independently. Prepare by learning how to do your own laundry, shop on a budget and cook simple meals.
ICAN is the College Access Network for Iowa, as designated by the National College Access Network (NCAN). The ICAN College Planning Centers in West Des Moines and Cedar Rapids provide free information and support to students and their families as they plan their postsecondary education and apply for financial aid. Funding for ICAN is provided by Iowa Student Loan. All ICAN services are free and none are dependent on a student borrowing from an Iowa Student Loan serviced lender. For more information about ICAN, call (877) 272-4692 or visit www.ICANsucceed.org.