PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 164 | Should Your Child Enroll In Summer School?

Summer school has changed over the last five years. Today, summer school is an opportunity for students to separate themselves from their peer group on many levels.

Show Notes:

In this week's episode, I discuss the many benefits of modern day summer school - not the "summer school" you and I grew up with (which was typically a mark of dereliction), but the new and improved summer school. 

  1. Should your child consider summer school?
  2. Which summer school classes to take
  3. Reasons to take summer school
  4. How to take advantage of virtual summer school?

Show Transcript:

[00:00:25] Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. In today's episode, I want to talk about summer school. And by summer school, I'm not referring to the summer school that you and I remember growing up, which typically fell on students who had failed a class or multiple classes during the school year, and they were required to make it up over the summer. My guess is that your child doesn't fall into that category. I'm talking about today's summer school. And the reason I bring this up this week is because I just enrolled my eighth grader in summer school, which will start sometime in June, about a week after his school lets out. And he, by the way, will be my fourth son that has taken summer school. Now, there are many reasons for a child to enroll in summer school. For example, my first two oldest sons took summer school because, one, they wanted to skip a year of math. Two, they had to make sure that they would not get one particular math teacher in high school who was terrible. Three, They wanted to be competitive at very selective colleges. Four, they were interested in Navy ROTC, which puts a big emphasis on math. And lastly, number five, I signed them up for it. My third son joined in on the summer school. Fun as well for similar reasons. His goal was to go to the Naval Academy, which cares a lot about math.

[00:01:51] He had the same issue with avoiding that terrible math teacher at the high school. He had to recover from a full year of Zoom in math during COVID, which set him back considerably. He had to make up to do. He also thought it would help him on the SAT. And lastly, of course, I signed him up for it. And now my eighth grader will be going to summer school for many of the same reasons. There are other reasons, some specific, some more general that your child might want to take advantage of summer school. The first and probably the most important reason is to keep something going academically over the summer to prevent the summer brain melt. This is the phenomenon where students are left to their own devices, literally and figuratively these days. And left unchallenged academically, might lose 30 to 40% of what they learned over the prior year. This is a significant slide backwards, and they just can't afford to let that happen, especially if your child wants to be competitive at a selective or a very selective college. And I don't know about you, but trying to keep children engaged academically over the summer has become more and more challenging, especially if there is no structure, no accountability, very little oversight. If we follow through. And of course, phones and other entertainment devices aren't exactly helping our cause. So if your child wants to be competitive and wants to keep their academic momentum going, I just don't think it's feasible anymore for them to put their brain on the shelf for two or two and a half months. It's too much of a lost opportunity. Well, thankfully, in part due to COVID, there are now lots of summer school options available and most of them are virtual.

[00:03:43] The government mandated shutdowns forced many schools and programs and organizations to create 100% online learning programs that were not available 3 to 5 years ago. This, in turn, has created tremendous summer opportunities for students and families, and they've become pretty high quality as well. Because in the past, part of the challenge with summer school was getting your child to the physical classroom. If they had class from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, who's picking them up at noon every day? And how could you child commit to attending a five day a week in-person class when they had to coordinate with a part time job or a family vacation or lacrosse camp or theater rehearsals? It was tough to fit yet another activity that was so regimented. But these days, with the ability to learn remotely and in many cases a learn at your own pace curriculum, it's much easier to accommodate this type of academic activity. And hopefully by now your child is more accustomed to this type of remote work, especially if they had to deal with it during COVID. Is a virtual experience as good as an in-person experience? Probably not, but it's getting better and it will likely become more and more common in the future. So why not figure out how to handle it now in a relatively low risk environment? The other reason to consider summer school is to help your child keep their academic confidence up. When a child takes 2 to 3 months off from school, essentially they can often be overwhelmed when they reenter school in the fall. It's a huge shock to the system, especially when transitioning from eighth grade to ninth grade or 10th grade to 11th grade. You really want to enter school with a full head of steam.

[00:05:38] You don't want to have to play catch up in the middle of the year. Getting into a hole is one of the worst things that can happen at the beginning of the year. By taking a summer school class or two, your child will feel more prepared and more confident going into that next calendar year. And this can make a huge difference. What about the cost? In my experience, many of these programs are free. The program that my boys have used for the last four years or so is 100% free. Now, this may not be the case where you live, but I recommend that you look into it. Ask other parents. Ask at the school. Ask the guidance counselor. Do a Google search. Since so many programs are now online, the per student cost has been dramatically lowered, oftentimes to zero. Now you may be thinking what class or what classes should my child consider taking over the summer. Well, it depends. I mentioned why my sons took math over the summer, for example. They wanted to get into more advanced math class sooner as an insurance policy to get away from that bad ninth grade math teacher to demonstrate their interest in aptitude in math, to highly selective colleges and to the Navy. And because I thought it was a good idea and decided to enroll them, your child might consider math as well. If they want to go into engineering or math or any STEM related field. If they love math and they're eager to learn more and get ahead, or if they're not so strong in math and they want to improve before next year. Maybe they had a poor math experience last year and they need to catch up and fill in the gaps before next year.

[00:07:19] Maybe COVID really messed them up and they'll take whatever they can get to get back up to speed. And other students may want to take a foreign language class over the summer, since speaking and reading in a foreign language is such a disposable skill that fades so quickly without practice. Or maybe they're interested in international affairs or travel or world cultures or anything related to the world outside the U.S., Beefing up their foreign language skills, maybe even becoming fluent could certainly help in this regard. What about students who are very focused on, for example, biology? Maybe they think they want to be a doctor someday and they really want to shine in their biology class. Well, maybe they want to take biology over the summer so that AP biology class is less stressful when they get back to school. I know a lot of students who want to prime the pump on biology or chemistry or physics over the summer so that they hit the ground running when they get into their A.P. bio, A.P. chemistry or A.P. physics class. Depending on how motivated your child is and the time they have to commit to such classes, they could really differentiate themselves academically over the summer. Your child also may consider taking summer classes to send a signal to colleges about what they really care about, whether or not the classes even end up on their transcript or whether they get credit for it or not. If you're interested in business, for example, taking summer school classes in economics or microeconomics or accounting would look great to a college. It shows that you're exploring your interests in a very practical way and for the most challenging honors and AP classes, taking a summer class or an online class ahead of time can really grease the skids.

[00:09:12] It can make your child's in-school life a lot less stressful because they're already familiar with the content and terminology and the themes in the vocabulary. I proposed this strategy inside PrepWell Academy all the time. And there are many ways to do this that don't entail summer school. Unfortunately, it's really challenging to get students to take me up on these ideas because in many cases there's just no accountability. Nobody's tracking them. It's easy to get distracted. Khan Academy, for example, is a free tutoring tool that's available to everyone for free. It's an incredible resource that every student should take advantage of. However, sometimes when the access is too easy and there's no official class associated with it, it's hard to get students to stick with it. Only a very few highly motivated, very mature students ever follow through with Khan Academy on an ongoing basis. It's just too easy to lose focus and get distracted. But when they're enrolled in an actual summer school class with actual assignments that they have to turn in and a teacher they're accountable to. Engagement tends to go way up. Summer school classes might even rise to the level of showing up on your child's extracurricular activities list. For example, I've had some highly motivated students who've taken my advice and enrolled in several summer school classes over the course of 3 to 4 summers in a row. So when it comes time for their college applications, I advise them to include an extracurricular activity called Self-Directed Study, where they list the 6 to 7 summer school classes that they took and why. This is pretty impressive. And by the way, this doesn't require that the student get accepted to some wazoo internship or fly across the country to some expensive, contrived summer camp or land a primo summer job.

[00:11:16] They can do it on their own schedule and often for free. I've had students write college essays on what they learned in their summer school classes. And in a world where it's becoming more and more difficult to differentiate yourself, these classes can really separate you from other students who sit around all summer and go to the beach and scroll on their phones and hang out at the mall. There's just no comparison. Do you have to get credit for these classes? Not necessarily. My two oldest sons only use the summer school class in order to skip a year of math. They didn't use it for credit. They didn't even include that summer school class on their transcript because they they would easily already meet the requirements of four years of math while in high school. So they didn't need it. They just use summer school to help them pass the entry exam that allowed them to skip a full year of math. So depending on the situation, your child may want to use the summer school grades for credit in their high school, or they may want to include them in their college application. You would have to request an official transcript from the summer school if you wanted to, but that's no problem. So here's the bottom line. There are many reasons to take a summer school class. Maybe you need to. Maybe you want to. Maybe you want credit. Maybe you don't want or need credit. Maybe it will help you skip a class. Maybe it won't. For this reason, it's important to come up with a plan and run that plan by your child's guidance counselor to make sure there are no surprises. You wouldn't want your child to take a class all summer, assuming that it will give you high school credit, or that it will automatically advance you to the next grade only to find out that your high school doesn't accept such an arrangement.

[00:13:06] Make sure you do your homework and do your due diligence ahead of time. So here's the moral of the story. Credit or no credit. Skip a class or don't skip a class. Whatever the motive, I highly recommend considering summer school if for nothing else but to keep your child's brain engaged over the summer. And the reason I'm including this in a podcast now is because some parents have no idea that summer school is even a thing. Or they'll find out too late. I want to make sure that you're made aware of this option early enough to, one, discuss it with your child to do some due diligence and research. Three. Check in with your school. And four. Just ask around and get smart about the strategy. And one last thing before I forget, because I know people who listen to this have kids in a wide age range. This strategy, this suggestion applies to all age groups of kids, not just students entering or in high school. And the earlier, the better. Keep those neurons firing over the summer and take advantage of all the new virtual programs out there that were born out of the pandemic. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in and for your continued support. And in case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies, online mentoring program where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics like this one and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in Prep Academy, which is great. If you don't yet, however, please consider enrolling them.

[00:14:54] Remember, registration is only open during freshman and sophomore years. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or a sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you'd like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child, for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to and enroll today. And if you're a parent with a middle schooler or high schooler that might find this episode helpful, please share it with them. And also give us a rating. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a wider audience. If you have questions, comments or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram, Check out our blog Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about to stay ahead of the game to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to PrepWell and enroll your child today.

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Podcast Host:

PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

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