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You’re a Sophomore in HS? Interested in USNA?

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Here’s an overview and a check list for what you want to accomplish this year (reprinted with permission from Building a Midshipman):

For many college entrance requirements, sophomore year starts the academic record- /GPA-/placement in the class-countdown. But not the Naval Academy. They count Freshman-Sophomore-Junior year. Senior year only counts for applicants on the scholastic bubble. This summer, like last summer, will be spent on scholarly pursuits, repairing damage and preparing for sophomore year.

  • Develop a plan of action for the next twenty-four months designed to correct freshman year flaws and insure the accomplishment of your dreams. You post it on the wall above your desk. Every time you sit down to do homework, you’ll see those goals, remember those reasons, and study harder.
  • Retake Geometry over the summer. Your confidence in your math and science abilities fractured after Honors Geometry and this will reinforce what you did learn while backfilling what you didn’t understand
  • Drop to non-honors Algebra II and non-honors chemistry for sophomore year. These fit your aptitude better and you hope will allow you a better chance to absorb the material
  • Play summer soccer with the District’s soccer league. You’re aiming for Varsity next year, so spend this time ironing out shots on goal, dribbling, and perfecting soccer strategy. You practice four days a week, play ten games, and get to know teammates and coaches. A good investment of time.
  • Recommit yourself to violin. Dedicate several hours of each summer day to practice, and reevaluate next year. You had a few setbacks with your violin. You didn’t qualify for All-State, and because of the shortened weekly practice (studying for classes took a lot more time than you had planned), you didn’t progress sufficiently in the classical repertoire required for college auditions. Still, this summer can make a difference. Violin gives a voice to your ‘other’ self buried beneath math formulas and memorized facts.
  • Research the fundamental premise of your science project. DNA has intrigued you since seventh grade. Read about singalization, hybridization, plate tectonics and paleogeology, and try to puzzle out your hypothesis.

Sophomore year starts with an epiphany: You want to excel in academics. Not just good grades, but to your potential.

This is a decisive discovery: You dislike trading grades for free time, short-changing homework for face time with friends, accepting that you aren’t doing your best. You opted out of Honors Chemistry to select a level more suited to your skills. Same for Honors Math. By second quarter, you are enjoying the positive results of those decisions. Your confidence in and enthusiasm for all things cerebral has returned with a gusto.

By Christmas, you tire of hanging out at lunch with a crowd that chatters and gossips for forty minutes about incipient incidentals—movies, dates, boys/girls, girls/boys, more movies. The group revolves around the popular/well-dressed/lots of make-up/rich girl-boy. You want to discuss the upcoming Algebra II test. More and more, you’re disinterested in the conversation and the people. You make a seminal decision, one that becomes the nexus of your evolved academic pursuit: You change your group of friends.

One sunny, sparkling California lunch period, you wander over to the perspicacious leaderless group you noticed as a freshman, their raucous voices loud as they spar over a political topic. “Fifteenth century Italian art reflected their politics.” “Maybe, but it was more about their religion.” “What’s the cost-benefit analysis of that SAT class? I already know what they’re going to teach.”

–read more in Building a Midshipman

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Jacqui Murray wrote the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a tech columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for ISTE’s Journal for Computing Teachers, and a freelance journalist of tech ed topics. Currently, she’s editing a military thriller that should be out to publishers this summer.

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