Skills to Refresh Before School Starts

Did your son or daughter spend their summer reading novels or writing for fun? If so, they may be in great shape to return to school and pick up where they left off. Other students—whether they are starting or returning to high school or college—may need a little “tune-up” before the start of the school year. Here are some important skills to refresh:

    1. Reading comprehension. Reading is a critical skill across all subject areas, not just English and social studies. Students who understand what they read can absorb and retain information more easily. Dartmouth College’s Academic Skills Center has excellent resources to help students improve their reading rate and comprehension. Check it out here.
    2. Writing. Writing is also a fundamental skill across all subject areas. STEM students need to communicate effectively in writing, whether in lab reports or grant proposals; humanities students can expect to write papers and essay-based exams. The University of Arizona Global Campus’s Writing Center has a terrific Writing Basics Refresher site filled with resources useful to both high school and college students. Check it out here.
    3. Math. Math skills are often the first to go over the summer months, which is why in high school the beginning of the school year is often devoted to reviewing last year’s material. Not so much in college! Students who want to brush up on their quantitative skills can check out Khan Academy. College students can turn to edX which features a series of math courses designed to prepare students for success in college.
    4. Public speaking. High school and college students are increasingly expected to present information to classmates. Whether in formal presentations or informal class discussion, students need to be able to communicate well orally. The University of North Dakota offers an online public speaking course and Linkedin has an excellent “communicate with confidence” course. Check them out here and here.
    5. Computer literacy. Computer literacy is not a niche topic—it’s relevant across all subject areas and in any online or virtual learning environment. While most high school and college students are comfortable using computers, those who are not should check out GCF Global for online courses in computer literacy.
    6. Study skills. Students do not always study efficiently or effectively. Whether they need better study strategies, time management skills, or active listening skills, lots of factors can contribute to students not studying successfully, despite spending time doing homework and otherwise preparing for classes. StudyRight offers courses online to help high school and college students (as well as middle school students) improve their study skills. Time management apps such as Remember the Milk, Any.do and Shovel can help students stay on task. Students who want to improve their active listening skills can check out Actively Learn, an online program designed to promote students’ ability to think critically and to reason about complex questions.


Parents of first-year college students who are concerned about their students ability to brush up on their skills on their own and/or maintain them when in college—where there is substantially less structured class time than in high school—may want to work with a college transition coach or college success coach. Likewise, parents of high school students can engage content tutors or organizational skills tutors to help ease students back into the rhythm of school. Providing students with this scaffolding can help them develop specific skills as well as build confidence and reduce stress  . . . which increases the likelihood they will thrive inside and outside of the classroom this fall.