Students work hard during the school year, and summer is an important and necessary opportunity to rest and recharge their batteries. That’s why when we tell students to use their summer well, we’re not asking them to work with the same intensity they do during the school year. Rather, using your summer break well means being thoughtful and intentional about how you spend your time. Here are some ideas for how to make the most of your downtime, keep your mind sharp, and get the fun summer break you’ve been looking forward to.
1. REST & RELAXATION
It might seem obvious, but it’s important to remember that summer is meant to be a break in our typically busy and stressful lives. It’s one of the few times of the school year when academic responsibilities largely fall away, leaving you with more time and energy to have fun and take care of yourself. No matter what else you plan to do over the summer, make time to relax, sleep, eat well, and do things simply because you enjoy them.
During the school year, reading books that don’t interest you or combing through dense, confusing textbook chapters can leave you ready to avoid reading altogether over summer break. However, summer is the perfect opportunity to rediscover the benefits of reading by picking up a book you genuinely enjoy. Doing so allows you to explore your interests while improving your academic performance. Even something as simple as reading newspaper or magazine articles every week or beginning a new graphic novel can improve your reading comprehension, sharpen your critical thinking skills, and expand your vocabulary. Plus, there’s nothing better than basking in the sun with a good book!
3. IMMERSE YOURSELF
Summer break is the perfect time to pursue a skill, hobby, or project that you’ve always had your eye on, but never had the time or energy to pursue. Without classes or homework, you’re finally free to carve out some time, create a schedule, and immerse yourself in the experience. September will come sooner than you wish – once the homework starts to pile up, your free time will diminish precipitously.
Summer break is also a great opportunity to take your foreign language skills to the next level. The best way to cross the barrier into conversational fluency is to dive in and engage with native speakers. If you are able to travel, consider planning a trip abroad or participating in a host/exchange program. You can even explore “summer abroad” programs that offer academic credit!
4. GET A HEAD START ON TEST PREP
With no competition from homework and after-school activities, summer has become a popular time to get a head start on ACT/SAT test prep. Indeed, for students hoping to qualify as National Merit finalists or semi-finalists, summer is an opportune time to devote a significant amount of time to study and preparation. Students often struggle during the school year to balance immediate responsibilities, like homework, with longer-term ones, like test-prep. That’s why summer studying can be an investment that yields a high return!
5. MAINTAIN STRUCTURE & STICK TO A SCHEDULE
The end of classes can leave a vacuum of free time in your daily schedule. Without any obligations to replace it, your productivity and motivation can disappear quickly. The trap of “too much free time” will have you putting off even the easiest tasks until tomorrow – just because you can. Instead, find activities, a job, or devise your own schedule so that your days have some structure. You’ll still end up with free time, but you’ll be forced to be more thoughtful and efficient in the ways you choose to spend it – even if that means binging TV and eating ice cream for dinner!