By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
In this blog post, I share 8 things to do during the summer that will make college easier. I’m not talking about going to summer school – even though that’s a brilliant idea. Instead, I’m talking about 8 activities that target the exact same skills you’ll need to survive and succeed in college. In other words, the more you do on the list below, the better prepared you will be when you start or return to college in the fall.
Now I know that summers are for friends, relaxation and non-school things. Yes, yes – please get plenty. However, if you’re a student or a future student, your summers are going to feel like…what’s the word…adult. And they should. It is a sign that you are doing the right things.
8 things to do in the summer that will make college easier
I’ve written before about various activities you can do over the summer to build your resume. These activities are important (there are 3 of them), but they are a bit different from the list I share below. Let’s dive into it.
1. Keep a calendar.
If you’re college-age and don’t keep a personal calendar, you’re missing out on a key skill you need in college and beyond. Plus, you’re probably late for a lot of things. During the summer, use Google Calendar (here’s how) to track work hours, appointments, birthdays, and more. If it’s attached to a date, put it in your calendar.
Learning calendar skills over the summer can make college easier. When you are already in the habit of adding dates and regularly checking your calendar, it will be natural to continue this habit when you have to manage deadlines, due dates, class times and meetings at university.
2. Set a goal.
Set a goal to achieve by the end of the summer. Choose a goal, any goal – make it one that’s really important to you. Once you have defined your goal, determine what you need to do to achieve it using reverse engineering, what i’m teaching you to do here.
Goal setting, which includes thinking about a goal, choosing a deadline, breaking it down into micro-steps to tackle each day, and committing to the goal no matter how difficult things get, requires exactly the same skills you’ll need in college and beyond. Literally, the ability to set and achieve a goal is necessary to achieve anything.
3. Read a book.
Reading makes reading better. (Look at me full of facts.) So if you read a book over the summer – whether it’s mandatory summer homework or not – you’re going to improve your reading skills. And you don’t need me to tell you that having strong reading skills will make college one hundred percent easier.
Reading requires many cognitive skills, including sustained attention, metacognition, and working memory. The more you read, the more you strengthen these incredibly valuable skills.
Also, it’s wonderful if you like the book you’re reading, but if you don’t like the book you’re reading, you get the bonus skill of understanding how to put up with difficult and boring things. And that, my friends, is the ultimate academic and life skill.
4. Write something down.
Writing makes you better at writing. (Do you see a trend here?) I’m not suggesting you write essays over the summer for fun, but I’m suggesting you make a habit of writing something during the summer. A logical place to start would be journaling. If you have ADHD or executive function deficits, I suggest you start with my Executive Function Diary. If you don’t like keeping a journal, you can try writing old-fashioned letters to people. Think how surprised and happy some of your family members would be to open the mailbox to a handwritten (or typed) letter from you! Nerdy? Maybe. But also really great.
The benefit of doing some sort of consistent writing over the summer is that it keeps your mind prepared for the type of cognitive tasks that are asked of you every day in college. It’s not like you forget how to write if you take a break during the summer, but you’re not doing yourself a favor either.
5. Manage your email.
here is my complete tutorial on managing emails as a student. It’s packed with tips, strategies, and recommendations, and I highly suggest you read it when you’re done here.
Managing your email over the summer will make your return to college a lot easier because not only are you keeping your inbox from becoming an overgrown jungle, you’re building and maintaining your email habit.
Building and maintaining a college email routine is an essential skill because, as you know, email is the primary form of communication with your professors. Knowing when to check your email, how often, what type of messages to respond to, and how to respond to messages is important in college and beyond.
6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
No, I’m not suggesting that you wake up at 5 a.m. and go to bed at 8 p.m. during the summer. (I’m not a freak.) But there is huge value maintain some sort of regular sleep schedule during the summer months. You can sleep later and stay up later than you do during the school year — and that’s fine — but there are significant biological benefits to generally waking up and going to bed at the same time each day.
Being able to regulate your sleep schedule and sleep hygiene will certainly make college life easier, as we all turn to banana porridge if we have bad sleeping habits.
7. Maintain a basic exercise routine.
No one is suggesting you climb Mount Everest in the summer. But maintaining a core summer exercise routine that’s a combination of something challenging (it should get your heart rate up) and fun isn’t only good for you, but it also helps you develop important skills you’ll need in college. Sticking to a consistent exercise routine trains you to be able to do hard things even when you don’t want to. It also helps you develop impulse control, prioritization, and the skills needed to beat procrastination.
8. Do something to add to your resume.
Developing your college skills over the summer through goal setting, reading, writing, using calendars, and managing your email is awesome — and tell you, that’s what this blog post is all about. However, I also suggest that you do at least one thing during this summer that you can add to your student resume. Here are 3 ways to boost your student CV during the summer if you need help coming up with ideas. The benefit of doing a challenging activity over the summer is that all resume-worthy activities also build the exact kinds of skills you need in college.
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