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Prepare for College by Problem-Solving This Summer

THE ABILITY TO accurately and efficiently solve problems is key on all standardized exams, including the ACT and SAT. Problem-solving is also a skill that we must engage in many other contexts, such as the workplace, around the house and in our personal lives.

While high school students may not wish to hone their academic competencies during the summer, these months offer an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills in enjoyable and accessible ways. Here are three leisurely habits that can benefit you in college and beyond:

  • Practice a new athletic endeavor.
  • Set technology-free challenges.
  • Pursue hands-on activities.

Practice a new athletic endeavor. The physical benefits of engaging in regular exercise are plentiful and undisputed, but did you know that being physically active can also result in cognitive benefits?

A 2014 study from the Georgia Institute of Technology reinforced the previous belief that exercise can improve memory. Just 20 minutes of light exercise per day is enough to boost short-term memory, the study showed. Recall and retention are indispensable skills for college students. To perform well academically, students must be able to remember content, formulas and procedures for exams. This is also true on the ACT and SAT.

By picking up a new athletic endeavor like resistance training, you indirectly prepare for the mental challenges of college and entrance tests. And with so many different sports and activities available to choose from, there is sure to be an athletic endeavor that suits your tastes.

Set technology-free challenges. Routine tasks have become incredibly simple due to modern technology. For example, navigating and taking photographs – activities which used to require more thought – can now be done almost mindlessly from our smartphones. The near limitless capabilities of our phones give us much to be thankful for, but they may come with a problem-solving price.

If you truly wish to test and sharpen your problem-solving skills this summer, consider setting technology-free challenges for yourself. Find your way without a GPS giving you directions, memorize your most frequently contacted numbers or rely on your high school Spanish rather than consulting an online translation tool. You may be surprised by how much you remember. There are endless ways to unplug and to capitalize on your skills.

Weaning yourself off technology can be uncomfort-able at first. You may catch yourself reaching for your phone nearly every time you need a question answered, but remember that it will not be available to you when you take the ACT or SAT. Stay loyal to the technology-free challenges you set. You will soon become accustomed to problem-solving with your own mental resources.

Pursue hands-on activities. Hands-on activities provide another way to enjoy yourself as you practice your problem-solving skills. Consider taking on a hobby like sculpting or knitting that can develop your imagination, manual dexterity and critical thinking capabilities.

If you are not drawn to artistic hobbies, you can still practice problem-solving around your house. Building, fixing and organizing are all activities that require you to look for practical solutions to everyday problems. Such activities also develop technical capacities, like troubleshooting and measuring, that can serve you well in majors like computer science and mathematics.

Furthermore, these household tasks afford the benefits of being inexpensive and productive. Rather than paying someone else to assemble furniture for you, attempt to do it yourself. Or, build the shelf or night table that you have been imagining for your room out of scrap materials.

Ultimately, there is good news: You can sharpen your problem-solving strategies this summer while also enjoying yourself. Combine working out, putting down your phone and picking up a hobby with more traditional methods like ACT or SAT prep books while outside the confines of the classroom.

By Tiffany Sorensen
June 3, 2019

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