July 15, 2019

How to avoid the academic summer slide

Students can take advantage of summer downtime by brushing up on academics or launching their own business. Here's how.

Now's the time for summer learning: Help students stay on top of their academic game this summer by supplementing fun with academics. Photo of Yosemite Valley, California, by George Rose/Getty Images

This time last summer, when most teens were on the beach or at camp, Jody Bell took a different tactic.

With a nudge from her “coach,” she brought her idea for a nonprofit to fruition—and made international news.

That move, as she shares here, just won her a $20,000 college scholarship in the business program of a top college, and will no doubt give a huge leg-up for her career.

For children, and even adults, summer is the time to take charge of your career and college success, not shift into low gear.

According to a report by the Wallace Foundation and RAND Education, “By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring.”

Here are five ways you can make summer count and avoid the summer academic slide:

1. Supplement fun with academics. Even if your child is at camp, consider alternative programs to strengthen areas of potential–such as math or reading. Don’t assume camp programs that include a “STEM” component are rich in the kind of learning needed today. Too often, they’re cursory experiences like how bubbles are created. Those aren’t bad, but consider an alternative program that goes deeper—or sprinkling in academics before and after the fun in 15- or 30-minute increments.

2. Reward summer learning. Raise the idea of academics with your student and you’re likely to hear the moan: It’s summer! Consider using special programs your child likes–such as horseback riding or sewing–as a “reward” for the academics. “It’s your choice: you can either have horseback riding and go to math tutoring or we can skip the horseback riding.”

3. Explore community college programs. Many community colleges offer programs for kids that can introduce them to new academic areas while keeping them challenged. Check out your local college’s online brochure.

Take the old lemonade stand a giant step further: help her create her own business and get a real leg-up for college or her first job.

4. Welcome diversity. There’s nothing like being with others from different backgrounds and experiences to open one’s eyes to the world. Seek out programs or opportunities to expose your kids to those with other strengths, personalities, and backgrounds.

5. Create a business. Take the old lemonade stand a giant step further: help her create her own business and get a real leg-up for college or her first job.

Throughout the year, and including this summer, high school girls are attending Girls With Impact, a live, online entrepreneurship Academy from wherever they are—their home, the beach or the road. Like Jody Bell, they’re learning core business concepts while creating a business plan for an idea. Not only are the girls learning concepts taught in an MBA—from finances to strategic thinking—they’re building their network for career success.

Father and investment banker James Harper said after seeing his daughter, Isabelle, and 30 other girls recently graduate from the program: “I had no idea what she signed up for,” he said. “This sets her on a real path. I’m amazed.”

Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw

CEO of Girls With Impact

Jennifer Openshaw is CEO of Girls With Impact, an after-school, live online mini-MBA offered to high school girls 14-18.