Summer—college students spend the whole year looking forward to it, but once it comes around, the heat, humidity, and lack of structure might make summer feel like a drag. The lack of motivation can turn into a spiral of writers’ block, laziness, and general malaise. Scrolling through social media and seeing your classmates’ beach getaways or suit-and-tie internships can stir up envy. It’s a common experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Free time during summer can seem like a curse, but it can really be a blessing. Here are some ways to get ahead for your fall semester over summer break.
Take classes during summer term at a local college.
If you are home for the summer, check out the course offerings for the summer sessions of colleges nearby, particularly at community colleges. Summer terms usually pack longer classes into multiple days a week, since the classes take place over a shorter length of time than a semester, so you will be able to receive full credits for a shorter class! You could even apply the credit you earn from a summer class to your transcript at the college you attend, but make sure to check if your college accepts outside credits
Find and use resources that will prepare you for your fall semester classes.
If you’re going to be taking a notoriously difficult class, there is no harm in self-studying for the content. Websites like Khan Academy and Youtube channels like Crash Course are great ways to prepare for the journey ahead. If past syllabi of the courses are available online, seek them out and check out the books at your local library to read ahead. If you’re going to be in a structured, problem-set based course such as Calculus, seek out practice problems and work on those on your own. If you’re in a class that will teach you a new skill, such as Programming, download free and open source software to learn the material on your own. By the time you get to the semester, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle tough material.
Seek out professionals in your future career industry and ask to shadow them.
This suggestion can seem like a long shot, but it can work. Showing the initiative of sending an email or calling the place where you want to shadow can already put you in the good graces of someone there. This summer, a high school student contacted the supervisor of the summer research program at my school, and the supervisor passed on her resume and contact information to all the research team members and faculty mentors. I am sure she received a shadow spot in the lab she wanted, and the first thing she had to do was show initiative.
Volunteer to help at a summer camp or community center course.
There are a multitude of volunteer opportunities available that will make you feel good and prepare you for the semester ahead. In your area, there could be summer camps and community centers offering free courses. These camps and courses equip people with skills they will need for the rest of their life, and they are sometimes discipline specific, like tech camps! Teaching kids these skills could help you retain knowledge better on your end. Teaching people how to do something is sometimes the best way to help yourself remember!
Email your professors.
Even during summer, many professors don’t stop working. In fact, some of them are teaching summer courses at the school or preparing for the heavy influx of new first-year students. Don’t let the fact that it is summer stop you from getting in touch with your professors early to prepare for the class! Introduce yourself, and talk about your reasons for taking the class. Mention the professor’s research (if you’ve read it), and engage them in a conversation. This small communication could easily mark you as a dedicated student and make you stand out in a classroom of many.
Apply for freelance and online work.
Sometimes, leaving the house and applying local job isn’t something that folks want to try over the summer, and that’s perfectly valid. However, if you are like me and are always looking for opportunities to have a side hustle from home, there are plenty of options for you. Sites like UpWork and ProBlogger have plenty of freelance job postings, but you might find that these are not catered to college students. However, college lifestyle blogs are almost always seeking writers who are currently in college! Applying for these sites is often quick and easy, and you can write what you know. Even if you think you don’t have a lot to say, you’ll find that your own experiences provide ample sources of inspiration.
You don’t have to let summer fly by without preparing yourself for the semester ahead. Luckily, there are a multitude of various opportunities for students just like you, and all you need is the initiative to reach for them.