For some students, the arrival of summer means the opportunity to lounge around and do — well — pretty much nothing. While it can be tempting to allow the dog days of summer to flow by in a blur of inactivity and laziness, doing so often isn’t the best idea. If you give in to your desire to be entirely unproductive, you’ll reach the end of your summer with nothing more than, perhaps, a relatively good tan. If, on the other hand, you put effort into making your summer months productivity-filled ones, you’ll enter the next academic term more capable of taking on the rigors of high school.
Your chances of having a productive summer improve substantially if you know what you want to accomplish over the long break. As soon as school lets out, sit down and create a list of goals for yourself. Be as specific as possible, creating objectives that are measurable and time sensitive, as specific goals are more likely to be accomplished. For example, instead of saying “I want to make money this summer,” set a goal that you can clearly determine whether or not you accomplished such as, “I want to earn at least $500 by the end of July.”
Stick to a Schedule
Too often, students waste away their summers staying up till all hours of the night and compensating by sleeping in until well after noon. Don’t allow yourself to do this. Instead, stick to a reasonable bedtime and set an alarm to ensure that you rise before the lunch hour. While it’s perfectly permissible to allow yourself to sleep in a bit over this break, by not taking it to the extreme you can improve your chances of making your summer a productive one.
Give Back to the Community
Spending at least some of your summer time giving back to the community can make your break both productive and fulfilling. Select a local organization you care about, such as the area animal shelter or an inner-city food pantry, and contact them, asking how you can be of service. Doing this over your summer vacation isn’t just a good idea, it can also prove beneficial when you get back to school as, in many districts, high school community service is mandatory for graduation. Even if you aren’t mandated to engage in community service during high school, these kind actions are things you can put on your resume, showing colleges to which you may apply that you are a quality, caring individual.
Build your Brain
Just because you’re free from classroom lessons over the summer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still exercise your mind. Use your time away from the classroom as an opportunity to engage in independent study. Read some novels that have long been on your to-read list, or select some books from the American Library Association’s list for college-bound readers to ensure you’re university-ready when the time comes. Study a subject that interests you, reading non-fiction books on the topic.
More technologically inclined students might want to use summer break to check out some lectures online from a resource like the Khan Academy in a subject of particular interest, such as math or history. YouTube also has a teacher’s channel that features videos of educators offering lessons on a variety of topics. TED.com offers a vast array of videos that, while not traditional lectures or lessons, can be very educational and enlightening to a student wishing to learn more about the world. You could even consider taking an online class over the summer months to brush up on or improve in a particular subject area; many universities offer low- or no-cost classes that could prove beneficial.
While there are many benefits to being productive over the summer months, one of the most pronounced ones is the pride you’ll almost certainly feel as a result of all of your accomplishments. Heed these suggestions and you’ll surely find, as you head back to school surrounded by students who did little to nothing over the summer, you’ll stand out as a productive, useful and unusually prepared pupil.
Zach Buckley is a freelance writer who is interested in exploring the intersection of culture, science and education. He lives in the Midwest and enjoys music, literature and good food.