School's out for summer, as the Alice Cooper song goes, but students shouldn't let their brains turn to mush during their three months off. In fact, students that are heading off to their first year of college in the fall have every reason to keep their brains in shape over the summer.

"Summer is the worst time for brain drain," said Kristen Campbell, the director of college prep programs at Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions. Campbell isn't implying that students should spend their entire summer rigorously studying for college; rather, they should enjoy the summer but also spend some time each week preparing for college study. "It's a big shock in terms of the amount of reading, the amount of writing, and the intensity involved," said Campbell of college coursework.

Fortunately, there are a lot of things that incoming freshman can do to sharpen their math, reading, and writing skills.

According to Joann Leckie, the Coordinator of the Mathematics Assistance Center at YSU, algebra is the area of math that most students need to work on. Leckie recommends looking over algebra books from the library or doing some practice math worksheets that can be found on the YSU Math Department's website.

Most students are required to take at least one math class in college, unless they test out of it ahead of time. Universities use a math placement test to determine which math course students start in. Leckie emphasizes that students should take this test seriously to avoid being placed in a math class that's too low. This is especially important if students didn't take a math class their senior year of high school or have been out of school for a while before entering college.

If students are still wary about taking a math course in college, Leckie has more suggestions. One thing students can do is put off the math course for a semester or two until the student has adjusted to life as a college student. "In the meantime, take a look at some practice tests. Do some independent study," Leckie said. Another suggestion is to take the math course during a semester in which the student has a lighter load. Leckie points out that math classes are usually very time-consuming. "You have to work at it," she said.

#### Fact Box

The Center for Student Progress at YSU

The "Resources" section contains a page of links that can help students with things like math and study skills.

The Mathematics Assistance Center at YSU

This site contains practice math worksheets with solutions.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab contains resources for every aspect of writing-grammar, punctuation, research writing, and much, much more.

These online resources are very helpful and convenient, but Jonelle Beatrice warns students not to become too dependent on the Internet for help. "They tend to isolate themselves with technology," she says, encouraging students to also utilize the resources on campus.

Click on this story at www.tribtoday.com for links to these Web sites.

While most if not all universities have math requirements, math skills tend to not be as dominant as reading and writing skills when it comes to college coursework. That's why it's crucial for students to keep up their reading and writing skills over the summer.

"Students need to be reading during the summer, and they need to read substantive books, not just magazines," said Dr. Karla Mugler, associate provost and dean of University College at the University of Akron. "They should be reading a book a week to keep up their reading pace," she said.

One way students can ensure that they're reading substantive material is to get copies of the textbooks used in the honors English track at their high school, Mugler said, or even to buy copies of their course books early. Students can read the study questions at the end of the chapter before reading the chapter itself. That way, said Mugler, students are reading for a goal instead of just moving their eyes over the pages.

Because of the workload in college, students should also work on their reading speed. "I don't think many students read fast enough with comprehension," said Mugler. "Time yourself - see how long it takes to read, say, 20 pages." Then, students can work on improving their speed while maintaining their comprehension of the material.

Mugler also suggests that students also use the summer as an opportunity to expand their vocabularies. When students come across an unfamiliar word, they should either look up the word immediately or write it down and look it up later. This gives students a taste of what is expected of them in college. "You're responsible for your own education," Mugler said.

Reading and writing are closely related, especially in college, and students will often be asked to write about what they've read. That's why Campbell suggests that students read more complex material, such as the New York Times, and then write a summary or an opinion (or both) of what they just read. Campbell admitted that such exercises take self-discipline, which not all students have, so parents can help out by going over the material with their students.

Another writing suggestion Campbell has is for students to review their writing mechanics - that is, grammar and punctuation. Campbell pointed out that there are plenty of grammar handbooks as well as online resources that students can use.

If, after training their brains over the summer, students are still nervous when they get to college, there's plenty of help to be had on campus. Jonelle Beatrice, director of the Center for Student Progress at YSU and author of "Learning to Study for Critical Thinking," points out that universities have a wealth of free services on campus designed to help students succeed. A few examples at YSU include the Center for Student Progress, the Mathematics Assistance Center, the Writing Center, and the Reading and Study Skills Center. Beatrice also adds that many of the students who use these resources tend to have higher GPAs. "In college, good students ask for help," Beatrice said.