St. Louis University – Cook School of Business

Name: Stephen Heiner
College: St. Louis University, Cook School of Business

What first drew you to St. Louis University, Cook School of Business?

Their MBA program was top-5 in the Midwest and was in a city that I adored.

What other colleges were you considering?

Rockhurst University’s MBA program, where I did end up taking some classes which counted towards my MBA.

How was the adjustment from undergraduate to graduate school?

Fewer stragglers and people in flannel.  But in all seriousness, we did have some people who were only there because they couldn’t get a job, but I couldn’t really get mad at them.  What I relished instead were the new friends I made, some of whom are truly great ones.

What was your favorite class?  Why?

International Business with Dr. Benmamoun.  I loved having to think through different business concepts from the international perspective – at every single point.  From something as simple as the color of the website to the way one closed a sale.  It was one of many things that probably led to my move to Europe.

What clubs or groups were you involved in?

I was a participant in an Entrepreneurs’ Group.  We shared current and future business ideas and offered constructive criticism.  We also linked up with the 1-year MBA program and got to meet some great guest speakers.

Anything else you want to tell us?

You’ll never regret picking a school because you love the city it’s in.

In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

An amazing city, a historic and beautiful campus, wonderful staff and students, and a curriculum that would not let me give my second best, even if I wanted to.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Rockhurst University

Name: Stephen Heiner
College:Rockhurst University

What first drew you to Rockhurst University?

It was local, Catholic, and had an aggressive program to recruit potential transfers, like me.

What other colleges were you considering?


How was the adjustment from being out of school to coming back in?

Well I had been out of school for 6 years, had moved to a different state, and had started a business.  I wasn’t sure I was ever going to finish college, so the biggest hurdle was applying and attending the first day of class as a 27-year old business owner, not an 18-year old freshman or even a 21-year old business owner.  I also had to manage my company while taking 18 credit-hours so I could graduate on time.  I thought that I had time management down, but this experience took it to an all new level.

What was your favorite class?  Why?

I enjoyed a lot of my classes, but perhaps my favorite was the non-class that was my Senior Thesis.  I got to propose it, build it, research it, and go for it.  It was a monumental essay I wrote on multiple novels of William Faulkner.  It was, rightly so, the toughest thing I did as an undergrad and one which underscored just what a nerdy English major I was (and am).

What clubs or groups were you involved in?

I was VP of our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society.  I also was elected to a national position there.  I also was Chancellor of our chapter of Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity.  I really enjoyed being part of those organizations and I have to say – if you’re going to take the time to be part of an organization, run for an office.

Anything else you want to tell us?

Don’t be afraid to finish school just because it’s been so long since you were in.  It’s never too late.  I’m proof.

In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

Challenges, Catholicism, and Completing it, finally.

Stephen Heiner is a former Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Name: Stephen Heiner
College: Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

What first drew you to Thomas More College of Liberal Arts?

The Great Books and the Rome Program.  They had a promotional graphic where they showed the number of books in the University of Chicago and St. John’s College Great Books programs, next to the price of tuition and room and board.  Thomas More’s pile was bigger and the price was less.  I also loved how small the school was and that it was in the middle of the New Hampshire woods.

What other colleges were you considering?

The University of Dallas and Christendom College.

How was the adjustment from high school to college?

I had always been a good student but the workload change was DRAMATIC.  Especially at a small liberal arts school.  My free time WAS reading now. :-)

What was your favorite class?  Why?

So many of them meld together in a Liberal Arts environment but the standout class that I would take again today was Art & Architecture. Doesn’t sound too exotic until you realize I took that class IN ROME.  Every other day we were at a church or a monument examining design and aesthetics.  Rome was our classroom and playground.  I get chills just writing about it!

What clubs or groups were you involved in?

We were a bunch of nerds with no intramurals, but I was one of two freshmen with a car so guess where we were almost every weekend?  ROAD TRIPS!  Montreal, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Boston, you name it, we went, with no money and lots of song singing!

Anything else you want to tell us?

Your undergrad school is your first adult decision.  Don’t take it lightly.  And please don’t go to a school because your girlfriend/boyfriend is going there.

In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

Reading, Rome, and Road Trips.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Apps to Help You Test Prep

Do you have apps on your smartphone?  We suspect that most of them are probably fun ones.  Perhaps you like to nerd it up with Words with Friends or take over kingdoms in Clash of Clans.  Or you like sending the picture of the moment on Instagram.  The top of your app-favorite list probably isn’t…a study app. But, as you know, we are always trying to help you improve and get better for these tests so today we wanted to review the official mobile applications for both SAT and ACT, as well as throw out a couple free apps to help you study when you’re not in class with us, doing homework for us, or studying on your own.  We aren’t trying to take up all your time with test prep – just use some of the unused current bandwidth you possess.


SAT Question of the Day App

Unfortunately, dear readers, this is only available on for iOS devices.  However, the price is right: free.  Question of the Day is a gambit that has been around for a while.  You get an authentic SAT question – you try and answer it, and you are given detailed explanations as to why an answer may be correct or incorrect.  This is a snapshot of the close-in work we do with our students, and it’s an excellent way to prepare.  We don’t believe in “question answering” in which you just answer a bunch of questions and get told solely whether they are correct or wrong. You have to know why you got a problem wrong.  Your teacher needs to identify your patterns of weakness so you can address them together.

This app includes the question as well as the most recent 7 questions.  They aren’t exactly giving away the farm but it’s not bad, either.  It’s simple, clean, and well done.  Now if only the SAT was like that!


ACT Student App

ACT, which prides itself on being the “big tent” test, definitely has more questions for you, but like College Board, only services iOS (I have a sneaking suspicion given how much money these organizations spend on research that they found out their target demographic overwhelmingly uses iOS devices).

The ACT’s app is generous in that it also allows you online access to your account, where you can see previous test scores.  It also gives you access to a bank of questions.  Now – I didn’t find out exactly how many.  In prepping to write this article I tried 20 questions in each category – English, Math, Reading, and Science – and I didn’t get any repeats.  I guess the point is – you’ll have more than 7!  And remember these questions should be supplements to the work you are already doing.  Have a few minutes in between class and are in “school/nerd” mode – do a question.  It won’t hurt, I promise!


Vocabulary Apps

For as long as I’ve been doing test prep (this is my 10th year) I’ve warned students about the dangers of traditional flash cards: word on the front, definition on the back.  I know that many of us have used traditional flash cards to much success.  But it’s short-term success.  It’s a study method that places these items into our short-term memory, and then those memories fade with lack of use.  I propose a stickier method: write a definitional sentence on the back of the card.  For example, if you use the word, “holistic,” write a sentence like, “The teacher promised to grade the tests in a holistic manner, taking not just style and grammar, but content, into account.”  Now, the sentence doesn’t need to be as nerdy as that – it just needs to convey its idea.  For example, “gregarious” means lively and outgoing.  What if you have an “Uncle Greg” who is gregarious?  That sentence would be a perfect fit for you as a memory device.  Be creative – the more you invest in creating the right type of sentence, the more likely you are to remember the word!

That being said – if you have a tried and true study method that works for you, that’s great! I continue to speak about these apps as supplements to what you are already doing, so if you are creating flashcards in the method that I recommend, you can use some apps to acquire new words which you can then jot down and create your own flashcards for.

One of them is, unsurprisingly called, SAT Flashcards.  Nothing flash-y about this app (couldn’t help myself!) but it’s quite effective.  You can go through the whole deck, starring ones you don’t know well.  When you’re ready to step up your game SAT Up has more flashcards as well as a “synonyms game” with over 1000 words. Of course, another wonderful option is Get Smarter Prep’s Twitter (@getsmarterprep) which Tweets a Vocabulary Word of the Day, as well as additional study tips and information!

Stephen Heiner is a former Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Classes or Private Tutoring?

Not only do we help students decide whether they should take the ACT or SAT, we also help them decide the best tutoring option for them. Should a student be in a private tutorial or a class? After the question about which test to take, which is by far the most important question to answer, this is a crucial one.

The first consideration is price.  We work within your framework.  After that discussion, we use two major determinants to guide your decision: score desired and time available.

Score Desired

How much of an increase do you need?  If it’s simply a matter of a point or two, private tutoring might be the best bet.  It will allow your instructor to be surgical and purposeful and work only on the areas you need.

Our classes follow a set curriculum, covering each subject equally, but there is still time for some individualized discussion. First, we have a maximum teacher-to-student ratio of 1:6.  Very often our classes only have 3-4 students in each section because we group our students based on their Pretest scores. A student with an 18 on the ACT, for example, would not be in the same class as a student with a 23 or a student with a 28. So, your student will not get “lost” in our classes.  

Secondly, after each exam (we take a Midterm and a Final) we meet with each student privately to talk about the takeaways from that test and to adjust strategies and goals for the next test. Finally, Standard and Custom Courses have Office Hours.  This benefit, not offered by many of our competitors, is an extra hour each week outside of class in which your student might come in for extra work.  It’s an open format, so multiple students can be there working with the instructor, but only our most motivated students utilize this great included benefit and often they have the instructor to themselves.

Time Available

We believe that generally, the more time you have to work on test prep and the more prep you do, within reason, the more your score will increase.  But not all our students have that time (they’ve built extremely scheduled lives!) or come to us with a lot of time (sometimes we don’t see students until Fall of their Senior year with one test on the calendar that will make their application deadline).  For those students, if their scores fall within certain ranges, the Express Course for either the SAT or ACT makes a lot of sense.

If you have more time and you have some predictable space in your weekly schedule, our classic Standard Courses offer 22 hours of focused classroom preparation and come with the Office Hours mentioned above.

Answer: None of the Above?

You might say at this point that you want to be in a class, but your schedule is simply too unpredictable or unusual or strange for our standard schedules.  We have a hybrid model for you: our Custom Courses.  Sometimes we are able to match students who have very similar score profiles and who want a custom course.  Other times a group of 2 or more friends who play the same sport or who have a similar schedule come to us.

Now it’s important to note that with the Custom Course, as with all our tutorials and courses at GSP, we let the score do the talking.  If it turns out that two students who came to us dead-set on working in a course together shouldn’t even be taking the same test (one student may show really well as an SAT tester and the other may show more potential for the ACT), we’re going to tell them.  We’re always going to focus on a student’s goals and the best environment for each student.

Whatever path you decide to take, we are confident that you will join thousands of satisfied GSP alums and families in getting the score you need for the school you want.  We hope to see you soon.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

A Short History of Get Smarter Prep

With a strong reputation among our local schools and having helped thousands of families in the greater Kansas City area achieve the scores they needed for the schools they wanted, one might think Get Smarter has been around for ages.  This month we put another academic year behind us and next month we celebrate our ninth year in Kansas City (not quite ages, yet), and we hope to be around many more years.  As we reflect on nine years of score improvements, educating families about college, and answering numerous questions about this process, we thought we would share a short history of how we got here in the first place.

The story starts in 2004.  Stephen Heiner, the founder of Get Smarter Prep, was in Southern California.  He taught test prep part-time but loved it so much he wanted to do it full-time.  He tossed around ideas, recruited from among the best he knew, and then took a weekend retreat with several other colleagues and talked about aspects they liked from the big-box companies and things they didn’t like, and came up with a small-group focused firm.  The goal was to teach fewer students per class, because more personal attention meant higher score increases, period.

It was successful for two years, building up a strong practice within Orange County, California.  Stephen wanted to leave the area to move to a part of the country with a little less stress, a lot less traffic, and a more reasonable housing market, among other reasons.  He had family near Kansas City and had always liked KC when he had previously visited.  He did research on the area, looking at demographics and the schools, and decided to leave the sunny climes of California to move to Kansas City. In July 2006, Get Smarter Prep (GSP) opened its doors in Overland Park, just a few doors down from where our current offices are today.  (As an aside, for those of you who have ever spent time in Southern California you can appreciate what a sacrifice it was, even for half a year, to take on Kansas City weather.)

There were a couple things that the founder didn’t know going in: 1) how much the market had to be educated about these tests and how coachable the tests really are (people thought you either did well or you didn’t, but there wasn’t a real consensus city-wide that there were reliable methods to beat the test and improve scores); 2) how long it would take to get the first paying client (it happened in December 2006).

From January 2007 until the present day, GSP has grown our practice. We’ve even been privileged enough to have a teacher who was part of the first training class still be with us: Gina Claypool.  We’ve learned that the best way to get new clients now is the way we got clients in the first place: word of mouth.  Nothing creates belief in a company like someone you know directly benefiting from a company’s services and then telling people they know about it.  This isn’t to say we don’t do other things.  We advertise in selected print pieces.  We manage our social media and search engine presence.  We sponsor school teams and/or calendars.  We also sponsor or have booths at college fairs and other similar events.  We give talks at schools to calm parents down about college or about the PSAT or about any of these standardized tests that only scare because people don’t know the truth.

As we move into our 9th year the spirit of the founder is still strong at GSP. We still focus on small group classes and private tutoring.  We still stay on the phone with parents until we’ve answered every question they have.  We still have the highest standards for the teachers we recruit and we make sure that they have quarterly continuing education to maintain our standards.  And we still remain dedicated to our raison d’etre: “The score you need for the school you want.”  We hope to be able to serve you sometime soon.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

School Uniforms: A Tutor’s Take on an ACT Essay Question

What many people don’t realize about the so-called “essay” portions of the SAT and the ACT is that they are the easiest parts of the test to coach and to beat.  Today I’m not going to give away all of those secrets (though I might give away some in a future article), but I wanted to give you a teacher’s take on a typical ACT essay question. Here is an example:


[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]

In some high schools, many teachers and parents have encouraged the school to require school uniforms that students must wear to school.  Some teachers and parents support school uniforms because they think their use will improve the school’s learning environment.  Other teachers and parents do not support requiring uniforms because they think it restricts individual freedom of expression.  In your opinion, should high school students require uniforms for students?

In your essay, take a position on the question.  You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question.  Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.



Let’s step back from the uniform question and pull back to a school-level view.  Isn’t it true that education is supposed to be holistic?  We aren’t just looking to cultivate a mind – but a heart, a body, and a soul as well.  How can we do that?  It’s not enough to throw money at education and think that “the best” of everything will ensure the right forming of our future.  We have to accept that everything a student sees, hears, and feels is part of his/her education.

So let’s start with the “uniform” of a school.  Does it look like a place of higher learning?  Or a DMV?  Do students respect the property or is there litter and graffiti around?  Are the facilities up-to-date, or if not, are they at least well kept?  You can’t look to the uniform of the students without looking at the “uniform” of the school.

If you’re with me on the macro view, let’s drill down to look at uniforms specifically.  Here are some facts about uniforms:

  1.              They provide a cheaper option for all students.  Without choice, students are confined in what they may wear.  That means they can wear the same thing multiple days (or every day, for that matter) and no one will think them odd or strange.
  2.              They hide economic differences.  No students can be judged for their lack of designer outfits when those designer outfits are not allowed at school.  Students will have many other things to deal with, but being teased for not being able to afford the best clothing will at least be mostly eliminated (free dress days always brings that ugly attitude back).
  3.              They signal subconsciously to students that they are engaged in an endeavor that sets them apart from others.  Many people wear uniforms in the working world – from a UPS driver to a Marine guarding the President.  Are we to believe that all those people are simply surrendering their freedom of expression?  Or is it simply an indication that sometimes when one is “on the job” it makes sense to look the part?  Students do have a job.  It’s called school.
  4.              They give the school a chance to showcase its traditions.  A school can, in its own way, express its individualism through its students.  The colors, the school crest, the school motto – all of these things are sources of pride and sharing – and they remind students that they are part of a great story and that they should play their own part well.

All of those schools who guffaw at uniforms routinely have their own unspoken one: jeans and a t-shirt.  This is what most students show up to school in every day.  Children don’t dress themselves.  Parents have to help them.  But as you get older and start developing into the young person you want to be, you have to start making choices – little every day ones – that mark out the sort of person you are.

I was always told that character is what you do when nobody is looking.  Character – and other lofty things that need molding – aren’t as mundane as clothing, but mundane things need attention too. So be intentional about your clothing choices, whether you have to wear a uniform or not. Then our schools would start looking a little less like rock concerts and more like institutions of higher learning.  And when you look the part, it’s not that much farther until you start feeling…and acting…the part.

How does this relate to the ACT Essay question? Well, here are some ideas of the different directions you can go with the question! You can take this stance, the opposite one, or maybe even something else – just make sure you answer the question they ask!

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Three Reasons Why Your Undergraduate Advisor Matters

Whether you are attending a large university or a small liberal arts college, academic advising is more challenging than ever.  An advisor is often a working member of the faculty who, in addition to his/her class load and university responsibilities, helps students pick which classes to take.  The implication is that an “advisor” is supposed to be someone who mentors you through the path of your classes and gives you advice and feedback on possible careers based on those choices.  On the basic level, he/she needs to rein you in when you are taking too many electives and not enough required classes. Your advisor can also help you stay balanced when your schedule is anything but (I remember a particularly long discussion in which my advisor started our conversation with: “You’re not seriously taking four English classes this semester, Stephen?”  Due to scheduling challenges in the semester prior and to follow, this was the only way I could graduate on time.  It was the toughest semester of my undergraduate life, and although I knew it when I registered, I appreciated the extra warnings from my advisor).

Some schools require advisor sign-off before you register for classes.  At other schools, advisors simply audit a list of classes after you have registered.  Whatever their particular function within the school you attend, advisors are important people to get to know for three reasons:

1.  They know the school.  If you are interested in a particular major or minor, or just in asking some questions before taking a class, in all likelihood your advisor will know the professor or someone within the department to give you a direct connection to.  They also have the cumulative experience of advising others in your same position, so you can use that crowdsourcing info to your advantage.

2.  They have seen different paths to careers.  Some people are going to have a straightforward path.  They want to be accountants or doctors, so they know exactly the requisite classes and course load.  Others have no idea, or at least, have only some idea.  This is where an advisor can shape/push a passion that manifests itself within class choice towards job prospects or career paths.

3.  They want you to succeed.  Now, this is where it gets interesting.  Your advisor has to take a certain number of students but not every student is going to receive (or listen, even if they do receive) the advice we are giving today.  So the advisor will, by default, give more time to the student who wants more time.  Take that extra time.  Invite your advisor to coffee.  Pick his/her brain and get to know him/her better.  It will be the first sort of networking you do out of the high school, and it’s probably the least stressful.

The moral of the story here is that if your advisor knows you, your dreams, your passions, and your desires, when he/she hears about a new class, an upcoming lecture, a possible internship, a new scholarship, a summer opportunity, or, as you inch closer to graduation, some career opportunities, guess who will be the first person to get an email about it?  The person he/she knows best.  (Pssst: this is how life works, too.)  Endeavor to be that person and you will not just reap the reward of having a well-advised and thoughtful schedule that gets you to graduation as expected, but you just might make a friendship that will last long after you’ve thrown that cap in the air.

High school seniors nearing graduation, put “get to know my advisor” on your to-do list for your first semester.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.  

Six Reading Tips for the Digital Age

Some time ago an article suggested that yes, indeed, the Internet had not just changed the way we read, but the way we remember.  As someone who never saw anything wrong with the “old ways” of reading, I hope to offer some correctives to unfortunate trends in our society, to the benefit of students both young and old.

1.              Read all sorts of things.  Just as it’s important to have a varied diet for our health, it’s important to have varied reading to give you insights into how different parts of our society think.  You’ll have your morning internet articles, but hopefully too your work/school reading, recreational reading, and hobby reading.

2.              Don’t listen to music when doing your serious reading.  Study after study has shown that the brain cannot really pay attention to both the intensive act of reading and the reflective act of music.  The separate exercises are using separate parts of the brain, but there is enough overlap to ensure that you will not really enjoy the music or comprehend the reading.  Pick one.  You’ll enjoy whatever you choose more.

3.              Turn off your inner reader.  We find that part of the reason our students struggle with reading comprehension when they first come to us is their practice of “reading to themselves.”  What I mean by this is that they simply read aloud “in their head.”  What this fails to recognize is the brain moves many times faster than your mouth and if you can turn off that “inner reader” and allow yourself to slide into the slipstream of “brain reading” you will read not just faster, but more deeply.

4.              Keep a dictionary and notebook nearby.  Now, I still happen to be quite analog in my practices so you will see a literal notebook around me 90% of the time.  However, what are acceptable replacements are a dictionary app and a note-taking app.  The dictionary/dictionary app should be obvious: the best readers aren’t content to figure out a word using context but go deeper into a definition of the word with etymological references.  The notebook is less obvious: sometimes we get ideas from reading – sometimes directly related to the text – sometimes not related at all.  We have to be patient enough to write down our ideas, thoughts, and questions. When engaged in this practice we don’t see the notebook as an interruption of our reading but as a continuous part of it.

5.              Always have something to read.  For our parents or our students this is a good practice.  We know well that you have reading you have to do for work or for school.   But take back reading as something you choose to do on your own.  Smartphones and tablets enable us to never be far from a book, and often, you don’t have to even pay for a digital book.  Many classics and some new works are free so even if you have forgotten to bring an “old-fashioned” dead tree book, the wonders of the printed word should never be far from you in the guise of a smartphone reading app.

6.              Keep your reading speeds appropriate.   If you’re reading something and find it interesting but realize it’s going to take you more than a few minutes to read, either copy the link or leave it open in a separate tab where you can come back to it at more leisure.  I usually let those die at the end of a couple days if I haven’t gotten to them so they don’t pile up, but better to not read a good long-form piece at all than to read it quickly and poorly.  Take back your time, on your terms.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

Make the Most of Your High School Summers: 4.5 Tips

We are in that magical final month of the school year.  APs start next week, Finals not long after.  And then, some rest.  Or not.  Summer is something so many families and students get wrong and we want to help our readers get it right.  Here are 4.5 guidelines to help you make the most of your summer.

1.  Get A Job

We all know that SAT/ACT scores and GPA are massively important as part of your college application.  But did you know that jobs matter too?  Jobs indicate to colleges that you have taken on an additional level of responsibility and that you have had some experience in the working world before plunging into university-level studies.

For you, the rewards are significant: a chance to earn some money (never a bad thing to start saving for college), an opportunity to make new friends, a chance to learn a new skill, and finally, a look into what real-life-work is like.

Would it be nice if your job had some relationship to what you want to study in college or do with your life?  Sure!  But if not, any job is still a good experience (even if you don’t like it, you still learn about what you don’t like!).

Our recommendation –  20 hours per week

2.  Take a Class

There are lots of reasons to take at least one class during the summer.  The two most important are the opportunity to skip ahead in high school and the option of knocking a college class out of the way now.

Let’s say you want to take Calculus in the Fall but you were in Algebra II this last year.  That means you need Pre-calculus.  What if you took it during the summer?  Most community colleges will offer a class that covers the material.  Make sure that your school allows you to skip ahead, however.  Some schools have policies in place that prevent students from using this strategy. Better to check with your high school counselor and learn the requirements before you pay for the class.

Another situation: let’s say you’ve just taken Biology and you’re due up for Chemistry.  Maybe you want to take Chemistry over the summer and go right into Physics.  Or maybe you want to take AP Chem and want to have your first year of Chem done before taking that class (a must, really).  Either way, if your school approves, you can take a community college class, not a high school class.  For the simple reason that, as long as the college you take the class at is accredited, many colleges will take the credits you earn – if not as part of your core requirements, at least as an elective.  You’re going to save money, save time, and open up more options for yourself for your high school (and college) course load.

Also, remember that if you are in “school mode” just by taking one class over the summer, getting back into the groove in the Fall semester will be easier.

Our recommendation – 1 class maximum.  Remember that summer classes cover an entire semester in either a 4 or 8 week period, so each class session os longer and there is more material to learn in a shorter time span.

3.  Do Something Different

This is really up to you.  You could volunteer or go away on some adventure for the entire summer.  And remember, you have 4 summers in high school so you don’t have to do the same thing every year, but realize that if you pick an out-of-town option you necessarily have to rule out numbers 1 and 2 on our list.  And believe me, adventures are worth the sacrifice.  By the same token, if you were to go on adventures every summer and were to neglect work or class opportunities that would be shortsighted.

4.  Schedule Some Downtime

This is the most neglected item on this list.  Parents and students try to pack summer schedules and forget that recovery time – in athletics, in school, and in life – is the only way to make the “regular time” more productive.  For every 4 weeks in the summer, make sure that you have at least 4-5 days where you can relax.  No homework, no special things.  Just time off.

Our recommendation – Take at least one real day off every week.  We mean it!

4.5  Don’t Sweat Your Summer Reading

So I bring my personal experience with stacks of AP assigned reading when I was a high schooler (back before the dinosaurs had gone extinct) as well as observance of my very best students over the last decade to this point.  I don’t think you should worry about this until 10 days before school starts.  Now, this isn’t going to endear me to all the high school teachers who tell you “not to put this off.”  I just find that after a full year of pushing hard at school that there is ZERO appetite or desire – even among my best students – to pretend like the school year doesn’t end over the summer and “dig into” summer reading even a month after school ends. So rather than be unrealistic, I choose to be pragmatic.

Our recommendation – Start your summer reading – seriously and earnestly – no later than 10 days before school starts.

We hope these tips help and we hope it presents the right balance of work, study, and fun for your well-deserved block of time off!

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.