Giving up much of your summer to study for the ACT is not what most people want to do, but if you are serious about getting into the college you want, you need to make a conscious decision to buckle down and study. Don’t know where to start? Here are some tips to get you started.
Have a plan before summer starts.
Sit down at the beginning of the school year when you are a sophomore or junior and decide which parts of the test you are going to focus on this year. Talk to your counselor and your parents to be sure that you are all on the same page. Take as many classes as you can during the school year that are geared towards what will help you the most based on your goals. Higher math classes, for instance. By enrolling in these classes, you are already getting a jump before you start studying!
Make time to study.
By now, you are learning what study method works best for your brain. You might be a person who can pull half night sessions or who works better in the early morning before the rest of the world is awake. Arrange to go to a friend or relative’s house if yours is too chaotic to buckle down, or perhaps you can use the library if the hours work with yours. Plan this as far in advance as you can and try to have a backup location if need be. You need a place to study that fits your personal study habits. If you work better in chaos or total silence, plan out this space a few months before you need to use it.
Will you use tutors or classes?
Start looking for tutors and classes, either one-on-one or group around the middle of the school year to ensure you are not rushed or left behind without a good tutor. You can even do online study or straight self-study if you feel you are able. By now, you know what style of learning works best for you. Stick with that, even if it needs to be a blended style.
Be sure that you are clear on the costs and the time involved both for private and tutored study. You can plan to save the money in advance so there is less of a sticker shock. Talk with your parents to be sure that the class schedule does not collide with family vacations.
Study up on the colleges you are hoping to get into.
Every college has different ranges of scores they admit, so a good score for you may be different than for your friend. Be positive that you have this average in mind and know what you need to focus on. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do they measure up against where you need to be to be considered?
What will you focus on this summer?
Is your goal to put in X number of study hours, or X number of chapters? Maybe it is to get X score on practice tests. Whatever your goal is, write it down. Tell people around you that you plan to do it. Keep your eye on the goal. Remember, in the end, you need to be accountable to yourself!
Be sure that you are willing to put in the work needed to meet this goal. It can work out better for some to break the goal into separate parts. X number of minutes a day vs X number of days a week if you are feeling overwhelmed. Or improve on the practice test by X number of points per week. Set a goal. You can modify the goals later, but don’t compromise on them.
Have someone willing to check in on your goals.
Who will help keep you accountable? A best friend, your mom, a counselor, a tutor, or even a teacher? It might be a pair of people or a trio. Pick them in advance, but try to have at least one. Your accountability coach(es) need to be willing to ask how much work you have accomplished, or check that your scores are going up. This person needs to be someone you admire and respect so you do not feel resentful on days when the studying are rougher than others. Choose someone who will hold you accountable without tearing you down if you don’t meet your goals.
Plan “me” time.
One major thing that needs to be done is planning in time for yourself. Studying for the ACT is stressful. It is one of the more stressful things you are going to do before you leave high school. Plan in time to relax. This might be a cheat day or even a cheat half day. Perhaps time to go to a movie, or out with friends. Make this time so that you do not experience ACT study burn out. Understand that there will be a few days where you don’t meet your goals and this is okay. Plan time to get up from the books and go for a walk, watch a favorite show or go out with friends. This is as essential to plan in as planning in the study time.