How to get ahead this summer without actually studying

Is concern creeping in regarding an unproductive summer, but you’re not quite ready to get into the academic swing? Here are some suggestions on filling your time productively, without having to hit the books… by Laura Primiceri

Perhaps your summer currently looks like a long, uninterrupted stretch of freedom – one that gives you an unfortunately clear view of the next academic year on the horizon. If you’re struggling to summon up the motivation to study, but want to shake the vague feeling of guilt and listlessness, I have six suggestions on what to do with the rest of summer.

1. Reflect

Looking back over the previous year is a good way to keep your brain engaged with your degree over the summer. Consider perhaps:

  • Where did you do well?
  • Where could you have done better?
  • How much of your workload did you finish, and was that enough?
  • Did you have a good balance between your social life and your academic one?

Ultimately, are you happy with how this year turned out? Why? Don’t just look at your results (and if you do and don’t like what you see, don’t panic; you can change your approach in time for next year). Take an objective step outside of yourself, weigh up the pros and cons of this year, and start to think how you’re going to tackle the next.

2. Plan

In this vein, turn your gaze forward to the next year and start looking at your modules. Print off a calendar and create a long term revision plan (Vision plan? Envision plan?). Most important is to find out when your deadlines are, and what weeks are the heaviest for reading and assignments, and mark this down, then fill in holidays, reading weeks, birthdays, and so on so that you can see where there might be clashes or busy periods, and you can plan ahead.

If this information isn’t readily available on the module page, be proactive and email your tutor, or other students you know who have already taken the module. The latter may even have some tips on what to expect from the course, and how to prepare effectively.

3. Work

Unglamorous perhaps, but something that your future self might thank you for. The study benefits of this are twofold: first, it means that you shouldn’t have to work through term time when you need to be firmly on the academic ball, and second, it means you’ll have more cash to splash on innocent smoothies and other such brain food when it comes to studying crunch time.

So pour that coffee and stock those shelves, you could be helping yourself in the long run.

4. Intern

Scrap the attitude that says just because you haven’t already lined up a placement this summer you can’t find one now.

Scour the internet for late applications, or go back to organisations were you’ve done previous work experience and see if they can find anything for you. Contact your friends, your parents’ friends, and your friends’ parents to see if they know of any openings. Make a list of places you want to work, and then cold call them; speaking on the phone can be stressful, but it gets easier with practice and once you can do it you stand out.

Perfect your pitch: it’s your duty to let these poor, oblivious organisations know that you, and your skill set, exist.

Student Careers and Skills has a lot of advice on finding work over the summer, which you can find here. And don’t despair if you’re offered an unpaid position, as there is a bursary scheme which could support you.

5. Study

Okay, I may have misled you. Sometimes to get ahead you can’t escape a bit of studying, particularly if you’ve made an envision plan (can that be a thing?) and realised that you potentially have 15,000 words worth of essays due in at the start of term three, plus a dissertation (that would be me).

It’s your choice as to whether you try and pick out some lighter material from the course to indulge your sleepy summer mind, or make sure you read some of the core texts that provide the foundation for your next year. Both approaches have different advantages and disadvantages to weigh up, but doing either will help to set your mind at ease.

6. Relax

Having said all the above, do remember that summer is a time to recharge your batteries and there’s no sense going through it feeling guilty about taking some deserved time off. Whatever you’re doing, be it working, interning, planning or studying, be sure to take a few weeks off to reconnect with your non-stressed self (I promise they still exist in you somewhere) and the people around you, and this too will help prepare you for the year ahead.


Image: Sunny Bathroom Window by Louis Vest CC-BY-NC 2.0


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