By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
If you’re taking AP classes as a junior or senior in high school, you’ll likely have summer AP classes to complete before your school year begins in September. This blog post explains how to take AP summer school in 3 steps so you don’t get overwhelmed with homework at the end of August.
How to Complete AP Summer Courses
For many AP classes, the amount of summer school is important. This means that you can’t wait until the last week of summer to go deeper into your homework, especially if you are enrolled in more than one AP course in the fall. Complete the 3 steps below, then read the bonus tips at the end of this article.
Before we start, if you’re looking for tips on taking full summer courses, you want these 8 tips. If you are looking summer reading strategies, you want these tips.
1. Achieve absolute clarity.
You have to know What you do before you can do it. Therefore, the very first step in completing AP summer school is to figure out exactly what your assignments are.
This may seem like a stupid and obvious step, but I am always amazed at how many students ignore it. Getting complete clarity on your assignments lets you know the scope of your AP work, which is critical to ensuring you have enough time to complete everything.
How to get clarification on your AP summer courses:
- Check the source where your AP teachers post assignments.
- Check your school’s email to see if your AP teachers have emailed assignments.
- If you still can’t find your homework, email your teacher using the instructions and pattern here.
- On paper (yes, good old paper), write down all of your assignments for each of your AP classes. It’s important to have all of this information in one place (hence the paper) because that’s what gives you clarity.
2. Plan when you will do what.
You need to make a plan to complete your AP summer school. As in, a real plan. If you are taking more than one AP course (or even if you are taking only one), take one real planning – yes, on paper – is the key to not getting overwhelmed at the end of summer.
Here’s how it works: You must find a day and a time slot to work on each of your missions. Saying “I will do it next week” is terrible. First of all, what is “it”? Secondly, what’s next week? Instead of being vague, pull out an actual calendar and find pockets of time each week to work on your courses.
Let’s take an example. Let’s say your summer mission from the AP government is to read the entire US Constitution and summarize each of the 27 amendments. Knowing that is the first step (clarity). The second step (plan) could be to read and summarize three amendments at a time. This would mean you would need to find 9 Time Pockets on your calendar when you were working on your summaries. No more “I’ll do it next week” nonsense.
3. Run the plan.
You know the details of your assignments (clarity), you know what days and times you will work on each task (plan), and now it’s time to to do work.
If you’re at the level where you’re able to take AP classes, you’re at the level where you can make sacrifices here and there to get the job done. Maybe you need to say no to a night out with friends or take your computer to the beach house your parents are renting. That’s what non-overwhelmed AP students do.
I also have a few other tips to help you get into the zone when it’s time to work on your summer courses. The following strategies can help improve your focus and motivation when you’re having trouble executing your plan.
Tips for Improving Your Focus and Motivation in Your AP Summer Classes
1. Prime your environment. Our external environment has a huge impact on our motivation and focus. When you sit down for your summer AP course, make sure you’re seated in a place that encourages concentration. Maybe you’ll need to go to the library a few times this summer – even better if it’s a library you’ve never been to before (this adds newness).
2. Get rid of distractions. The most important tip in this entire blog post is to work without distractions. It’s time to realize the impact of distractions on our productivity. Yes, I’m talking about your phone – obviously – but I’m also talking about your adorable cat that keeps climbing on your keyboard, your well-meaning parent who keeps checking how you’re doing… all of that is distractions and they destroy your ability to concentrate.
3. Use timers and clocks. Don’t underestimate the power of a stopwatch. When we give ourselves clear beginnings and ends to our work sessions, our brain frees up space to focus because it’s not focusing on when will this be over? If you really follow my 3-step plan, you will have created clear beginnings and endings in step 2. Also consider using the Pomodoro technique or the power hourtwo of my favorite clock-based time management strategies.
4. Add accountability. Tell someone what your plan is and give them permission to hold you accountable if you don’t follow it. When choosing a responsible partner, choose one that has similar goals to yours; otherwise, they could undermine your efforts. In other words, now is not the time to choose your coolest friend over your most driven friend.
5. Try parallel work. Parallel work is when you work alongside someone else who is working, even if you are working on entirely different tasks. If you have a friend who takes AP Literature and you take AP Physics, you can both go to a coffee shop for 90 minutes once a week to complete your AP summer course – even if you do different things. When we work alongside someone else (with similar goals), social pressure kicks in, and that’s good for motivation.
Bonus Tips for Completing AP Summer Courses
1. Don’t deny not knowing things.
When you don’t know how to do something, it feels good do not do it. It is natural human behavior. However, it is also harmful human behavior. If your AP summer assignments are tough, or you’re not sure what they are, you need to figure it out. Seriously, the more you deny you’re confused, the more stressed you’ll be when summer ends. In step 1, when I advise you to get full clarity, I’m not just talking about clarifying What do, but also how to do it. here are my top tips for figuring things out when you feel stuck.
2. Ignore the voice in your head telling you you can do it the week before school starts.
Yes, I know that voice is loud and persistent, but you need to ignore it. It is resistance talk to you, and his job is to make you justify your procrastination. First, this false voice: no, you can’t wait to complete your AP work until the week before school starts. Second, it’s a terrible mindset to start the school year. If you can’t bring yourself to do what’s expected of you before your AP class even begins, how do you think you’ll do once the class begins? AP Summer School is your chance to convenient do hard things when you don’t want to do them. Nobody wants to do their homework in the summer, but do them anyway.