As you roll into the summer following an exciting first year of high school, there are a few items that should be on your radar the summer before your sophomore year. While your summer vacation is a much-needed and hard-earned time for rest and relaxation, it can’t hurt to start looking ahead. Set yourself up for success by focusing on these key areas the summer before your sophomore year.

1. Practice SATs

While you could probably wait until the start of your junior year to take the SATs and ACTs, it never hurts to get a jump on practicing for the exams. Getting familiar with both the SAT and ACT ahead of time and getting a few practice reps in before the real exam can help you become more confident and comfortable working through sections. You’ll get an opportunity to try different test-taking strategies and truly understand how to best approach them.

Need a few guiding questions? Start here:

Where can I get a practice SAT? What does it feel like to take it? Does my school offer the PSAT? What is the score I get on it?

2. Personal Development

In addition to working out your test-taking abilities over the summer break, be sure to take some time to focus on your emotional and personal development.

2a. Summer Experiences

As you reflect on your experiences this summer, what do you notice about how you choose to spend your time? Are you being intentional with your decisions and how are those decisions affecting you and those around you?

Being mindful of how your summer experiences are shaping the world around you is a great way to reflect on how you are choosing to spend your time, and how those decisions are helping you work towards your personal development goals.

Need a few guiding questions? Start here:

What am I enjoying about my summer experiences? As I reflect on what I am doing, what am I noticing about what I choose to do and how I spend my time? How are my choices affecting others around me and my larger community? How might I be more intentional in the coming school year to make sure how I spend my time positively impacts others as well as myself?

2b. Successful Habits

In addition to reflecting on your summer experiences, be sure to spend time reflecting on good and bad habits from your freshman year.

What were a few good habits from your freshman year that you need to keep up? What were some bad habits that you wanted to adjust? Take inventory of these and start to visualize what a successful sophomore year looks like and what you will need to do to make it happen.

3. Exploring College Options

Finally, no summer to-do list would be complete without exploring college options. Which colleges would you like to explore?

It can help to list out all of your dream colleges and then group them into several tiers starting with Dream or Reach schools, Match schools, and Safety schools. With this in mind, you can start planning college visits and speaking to admissions counselors.