BY SCOTT BAY
Nothing feels better than finishing your final exams after a long semester and starting summer vacation. On the flip side, though, few things feel worse than starting classes in the fall feeling completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the semester ahead of you. But how do you avoid the latter without sacrificing the former?
These six tips will help you keep your mind sharp during your summer vacation and ready for classes in the fall—without sacrificing fun and relaxation.
- Study abroad
Enrolling in a study abroad program is a great way to feel like you’re just on vacation while also gaining valuable experience and school credit. Many programs offer study-specific programs, so you might be able to get credit for your major or minor. But even if there are no major-specific study abroad programs offered, there are plenty that cover general education requirements.
- Get an out-of-state (or out-of-country) internship
If you’ve reached the point in your college career where it’s time to get an internship, consider finding one over the summer that will take you to a new city, state, or even country. While you won’t necessarily be on vacation, you’ll be able to explore the new area while still keeping your mind sharp, and improving your resume. You may even find a place you’d like to move to after you graduate—as well as gain important industry contacts.
- Get involved with undergraduate research
Many professors have research projects going on year-round, so get involved with those while you have some down time. Reach out to professors in your college to find anyone who needs research assistants during the summer. This can potentially even count for internship credit, depending on your school and program. Only working on the project for a few hours each week allows you still to enjoy all of the fun parts of summer break and even go on weekend trips.
Whether it’s strictly for pleasure or required reading for classes you’re going to take, reading is much better for keeping your mind sharp than a four-month Netflix binge. If you don’t have access to your textbook list yet, consider finding other books that relate to the topics you’ll be studying in your classes. And if you haven’t settled on a major yet, don’t worry. The National Association of Scholars publishes a yearly Beach Books list that you can work through to see what major universities list as recommended reading. This is a great way to keep up with school—especially while relaxing over the break.
- Plan an educational vacation
When planning your summer vacation, consider going somewhere where you can combine education and fun. Big cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles are rich with culture and have plenty of museums. If you are enrolled in a US History course, consider hitting all of the Revolutionary War sites on the East Coast. If you’re taking an English Literature or History course, it may be the perfect time to plan that European vacation you’ve been dreaming of.
- Take summer classes
Though it isn’t the most exciting option, taking summer classes is a great way to keep busy during the break. Consider taking one of your harder required classes by itself over the summer, when you don’t have other classes distracting you. This is also a great way to get extra help from professors– class sizes tend to be smaller over the summer, so professors have more time to devote to individual students.
A few additional tips to keep in mind
No matter how you spend your summer, there are a few tips to make the most of your time.
- Stay safe: If you’ll be on campus throughout the summer, educate yourself on your campus’s safety resources. And in the event that you’ll be away from home a lot, consider looking into home security options around you.
- Protect your personal time: While there are plenty of benefits to staying studious over the summer, don’t throw your whole break away by overloading on commitments. Learn to say no to things that would take too much away from your down time.
- Coordinate with friends: Most obligations are less tedious if you do them with friends. So whether you’re planning to take summer classes or study abroad, see if you can convince a friend to sign up with you.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to get ahead in school over the summer. You can still have fun outside of hitting the books, though, so follow these tips to help you plan a summer break that is perfectly balanced between work and play.
Scott Bay is a digital journalist who covers technology, travel, and wellness — catch his latest clips on Twitter.