Should I Study Over Summer Break?

Summer break, like an easy breath of fresh air after months of treading water, it never comes too soon, and it’s over before we know what happened. Whether you use your vacation time to fill your schedule with fun activities or chill out and binge-watch all those shows you’ve been missing this time, let’s use some of our downtime to prepare for next semester and the rest of your life!

So, to answer the question of whether or not to study over the summer, the answer is no. It is better to take the time to recharge and set goals for the next semester. Use this summer to discover where you are, who you want to be, and how you are going to make that happen. 

Before you go off into existential dismay over one of life’s biggest questions, let me assure you, I have an easy-to-follow plan that will be so much summer fun you won’t even realize you’re making big moves!

As students, we sometimes think that since we have a pretty rigorous academic schedule for the next few years that we have already road-mapped a path to our future, but shockingly, that is not the case. While education is your primary short term goal and is an absolute priority, summer break is where you say goodbye to the textbook and classrooms and hello to achieving all the other small goals that ensure you lead the life that will ultimately get you where you want to be. You are going to have to hang with me for this one; there is so much to unpack here.

Enclosed in the table below are some activities you can partake in rather than studying over the summer:

Summer ActivityBenefit
Review Academic Progress
Made the Last Semester
Helps to ensure where you are
in pursuit of your degree
Review your Goals and update
your plans accordingly
Goals can change over time. Make
sure your current goals still fit
who you are and what you want to
Find a new hobby or simply
spend time doing a hobby you
already enjoy
After a hard semester, you need to
unwind and rest up. Life is about more
than just your education after all.

A Quick Recap of Last Year and Basic Educational Upkeep

First of all, it is still very important that you have actually learned what you spent all year studying, so take the time to do is a year-end wrap of for yourself. After classes are all done, and final grades are in, take time to analyze your performance this past year. What classes or sections did you excel in, and what classes or sections did you drop the ball in or don’t completely understand? Also, take note of what classes you genuinely enjoyed. Secondly, go back and really learn the material that didn’t get the first time. You spent a lot of time and effort to pass the class, you need to get all the return on investment that you can. Especially on classes that carry over or are part of your major.

Time to Look to the Future

Make a 5-year plan. This is a huge task, but don’t worry, I’ll help break it down for you. The very first step to making a 5-year plan is thinking about yourself in 5 years or if you can imagine as far, think of yourself in 10 years. Just let everything you know of yourself fade away and dream of a future you; the you that finally “have it all together” what does that look like? Do you drive a sports car, or do you prefer public transportation and rideshares? Where do you live? What kind of house do you have? Where do you work? What do you do on the weekends? Do you have a family? Pets?

Just take time to daydream for like 15 minutes or more. Walk a day or a week in your shoes and feel how it feels to be that youSome of the things you imagine will be easy-to-identify goals; others will need to be broken down into smaller, more obtainable steps. Things like working out every day will be easy to write down and accomplish; other things like living in a penthouse will take longer to achieve, and some things will have to be accomplished before then.

Set Some Goals

Now, take all the time you need to write down at least 25 goals. If you have more, that is fine too, but make sure you come up with at least 25. As you start to list things, new things will pop into your head. Some ideas go with other things you’ve written, and some things will come right out of left-field, and that is all ok; that is exactly the point of this exercise.

If you get stuck and need some things thinking, here are some goal categories:

Educational goals – as a college student, this is pretty much planned out for you, but you may need to add some stuff depending on what your plan is after school. Maybe you really need to move to another country to be successful but haven’t started practicing the language.

And now that you have another year under your belt, assess where exactly you want to go with your education. Have you narrowed down a specific job or employer? If so, check out what it would take to really impress them. Go ahead, call them up, talk to the front desk personnel or Human Resources and ask them. “If I wanted to work for this company as this position, what would it take to get the job?” now you have your career goals.

Career goals – what steps do you need to take to get to your career goals? Write them down and check them off. It may be as simple as taking an online course and a certification test at the end.

If you want to run your own business, research what goes into that. What software will you need to keep track of payroll?

Health and fitness goals – have you been getting enough sleep? Are you eating properly? Are you working out 30 minutes a day? If you see room for improvement on these basic health needs, then you have some goals to accomplish!

Personal goals– bucket list type goals or anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories. Things like “go on a cruise” or become a millionaire.

Organize your Goals

After you reach 25 or more, start to organize them into groups. Use the categories I suggested or make new ones to hold goals that are similar. You will start to see some clear patterns emerge. Some goals will take years to accomplish, and some goals you listed will just be a stepping stone on your way to the big goal.

Some interesting things I found while doing this exercise is that some of my goal groups were really small. That indicates to me that I am doing pretty good in that area already, and the only things I have listed are currently being worked towards or are very long-term goals. I also saw were I subconsciously have been pushing goals on myself because someone else or society, in general, has told me I need to accomplish something, and I really just don’t care about it, so I took it off the list completely. The bucket list goal group is the most interesting, you will start to see your passions line up and develop right before your eyes. You’ll see that all these tiny, seemingly random “I want to” goals will all start to begin the same. For me, it was “travel to”. I didn’t realize how long the list of “places-to-go and things-to-see” was until I saw them all written down and grouped together.

Pick Five Areas of Focus

This step may take you longer than all the rest. You have to narrow your focus. Now that you have a big picture and some clarity, you need to dial it in so you can actually start to achieve some of these goals. This is where we start to make our roadmap to success. You have heard “if you fail to plan, your planning to fail” – Benjamin Franklin; well, now you have started a life plan, and that is exceptional!

If you could have five things from your list crossed off right now, what would they be? Remember that you are the only one looking at this list, and you don’t even have to tell a soul about it; so, write whatever your heart desires. 5 is the key number here, although it’s not written in stone, trying to focus on too many things will leave you burnt out, and I am sure you didn’t envision that in your future-self daydreaming. If you want to focus on less, that is totally great too. Focus on what you can handle and if you get one thing marked off just start towards another goal. There are no wrong answers when you’ve done all the work here; all achievements, whether big or small, equal success in the right direction!

Make a Plan

You should be so proud of yourself for being right here, right now! Because you have taken the time to think about your future, write down your goals and narrow down your focus, you can easily create a roadmap for your next year. One thing that is really great about being a student is having time to evaluate your life and make sure you are on the right path to a successful life.

This step is more organizing. Now that you have five areas of focus, see what other entries on your goal list will easily integrate into your five areas. For example, obtaining your degree should be in there somewhere since you are giving a great deal of your time and attention to it. Either as an area of focus or a steppingstone to a larger goal like landing your dream job. So, you already have one goal on its way to being accomplished.

Once you have all of your five areas of focus and their corresponding goals grouped together, start to make a step by step list. Arrange the items you have in order from first to last for things that have to go in order and from easiest to hardest for things that are less rigorously on a schedule. Break down each entry on your lists into little bite-sized goals; try to think of 3 steps to achieve each of the items on your focused list.

At the end of this section, you should have 3 to 5 “first steps” that you can start to take action on right now!

Schedule Your Next Semester

Now that you are getting a head start being the best version of yourself, you should put an emphasis on your priorities and goals while scheduling out your next semester. Some things in our we have complete control over, but other things like needing to eat, sleep, study and go to school are mandatory. So, that is where you start when making this schedule.

If you have your school schedule already, block that time off in your calendar along with appropriate study time, block off your 7 hours of sleep, and an hour a day for basic hygiene like a shower and brushing your teeth. You should also schedule a few hours a week for doing laundry and calling your mom; you know, “Adulting”.

Photo by Bich Tran

After that, you should see a good amount of white space. Before you start signing up for extracurricular obligations, and filling up your free time, take a second to review your goals. One of the most powerful decision-making tools is having a focus on what matters to YouIf it does not help you accomplish one of your five focuses, then it is not the right time to do it. You have several years left to explore other areas of your list, but for right now, you are laser-focused on your top 5.

Let’s keep our focus strong as we get to planning our summer vacation.

Welcome to the Summer of Self Study and Success!

You made it; you are finally here for the summer of your life, the summer that changes your life! Armed with knowledge and gifted a 3-month break from your most time-consuming obligation, now is the time to make the most of your summer break. Again, begin making a schedule. Include the necessities: sleeping, showering, and adulting; then add any standing obligations like work or rescheduled trips. Now take a look at the white space available for success and start plugging in some activities that will help you achieve some of your goals.

Here are some things to do over the summer to help you achieve your goals and brighten your future!

Things to DoValue
Take a classEither a summer class to knock out remedial classes and graduate earlier or one to learn a skill like cooking.
Enter a competitionLocal libraries often have writing contests, and adding that to your resume or portfolio shows your ambition.
Volunteer, job shadow, or internshipNo matter what route you take, putting in hours to explore your career options or give back to a cause you are passionate about will propel you leaps and bounds ahead of your peers.
Get into politicsLocal politicians can always use an extra hand to pass out flyers or manage a call list. If you are interested in campaigning, marketing, or just want to help out your local community, this is a good place to learn some cool things.
Start a businessNothing too big, but if you want to design websites, open up shop for summer and take orders from friends and family.
Test prep or earn a certificateIf your degree is reliant on you passing a large test at the end, start studying now. Chances are they have a neat little class that will make sure you are prepared. Or earn a certificate not related to school like scuba diving.
TutoringA great way to help out a struggling student and make some extra money.
Practice a foreign languageHave a Summer of Spanish-only media or try Rosetta Stone.
Learn to play an instrumentStudies show that people who play an instrument do better in school than those that don’t. Plus, how cool would it be to learn to play piano over the summer?
TravelSummers are so amazing for all the beautiful weather and spare time you have. Do yourself a favor and get out and explore! Check out a historical site or monument.
Check out a museumHistory, art, and science exhibits are a wonderful way to learn about your passions or explore your major actively.
Journal or meditateBecome more aware of yourself and the world around you by taking time to ponder and be in-the-moment.

I hope this article was helpful for you in terms of planning how to use your precious summer time away from school.

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Should You Study Over Summer Break?