10 easy ways to use the summer break to prepare for next year

The summer months are a good time to rest, catch up with family and friends at home, get some work (i.e. money) in, and so on.

photo by j-ster
photo by j-ster

The summer months also represent the perfect time to prepare for the next academic year. And you don’t need to spend much time to reap the benefits when you return.

Below are ten things you should do to get socially and academically fit for when you next hit campus:

  1. Read up in advance – You know roughly what you’ll be studying, you have reading lists, and you have a year or more of degree study behind you now. This is the best time to casually research your new topics and scan through (or even read) a few books.
    Work out both what you’re already familiar with and what leaves you confused. The whole point is to be confused in places and to get stuck once in a while as you check through. That way, you won’t approach the work blind.
  2. Write opinions and thoughts – After the initial research, get some notes down. Again, just be casual. You’ve got nothing to worry about, so say what you like. Even if you later discover you’re barking up a completely different tree, your eureka moment will be stronger and the detail will more easily lodge in your head. Result!
    As a bonus, anything with no right or wrong answer gives you an opportunity to start finding your way through the subjective minefield long before others are even aware of what’s going down.
  3. Write initial questions and concerns – Like I say, it’s good to find confusion and uncertainty in your initial dealings with new topics. The only way you can get a serious grip on finding out more is to tackle it head on with questions. There are no stupid questions. And you won’t be asking them anyway. These notes are for you to be aware. You might get answers in the first few minutes of the first lecture back. Even better, you’ll notice straight away once you’ve prepared, which is a more natural approach.
  4. Get administrative affairs up to date – Now is a great time to get stuff filled in, filed, organised, and set up in advance for when they’re needed. Don’t leave the paperwork and boring stuff until the last minute as you’ll end up losing it, forgetting it, and having to do it at the same time as EVERYTHING ELSE!
  5. Financial check – Do you have a spending plan? Will you need more money? How much will you rely on credit cards? What bills will you have? What is your shopping budget? How much do you have for evening entertainment?
    Nip those money questions in the bud with a proper budget plan. For any definite shortfalls, work out if you can cover them another way. If you can’t, seek advice on your options as soon as possible through your university and students’ union. Don’t go straight to more credit cards and commercial loans, because there are other, far better, avenues to try first.
  6. Use the Internet to find websites, crib sheets and summaries in advance – A quick look online can provide you with a wealth of information on what you’re studying. Just a couple of rough Google searches and a quick check in Wikipedia is enough to uncover major sites and subject summaries. And if you delve further, the sky’s the limit. You’re not limited to websites either. Use Google Books and Amazon ‘Look Inside’ for previews of books while you’re not near the uni library.
  7. Read your past essays and assignments – Never discard your old work. You might look back at something from only a few months previous and cringe. “Did I *really* write that!?”
    Yes you did. So learn from it. Examine tutor feedback and consider what you’d do instead next time.
  8. Spend a couple of hours on your future plans – What goals do you have for the year? Do you want to better organise your social calendar? Is there anything you can do to start on career plans long before you graduate?
    All you need is an hour or two to ask yourself questions about the life ahead of you and give the answers careful consideration. You may get stuck for answers, but at least you know what you’re up against when you get back to uni. You will be in a much better position to confront the issues and go in, guns blazing.
  9. Confront issues from previous year(s) – Just like reading past essays, looking back on past difficulties can be helpful. It’s not always best to dig up the past, but neither is it healthy to bury your head in the sand. When you want to do things differently next year, get your mind on the same side. Face those fears and limitations. You are more amazing than you realise.
  10. Prepare for a year of surprise and new experiences, not same old, same old! – There is always something different to enjoy at university. Even a tiny institution in the middle of nowhere has a veritable banquet of delights awaiting you. But you have to grab what’s out there. If you don’t, the initial excitement of ‘uni life’ turns into an ‘everyday life’. Excite yourself; dare to do something different!

None of this takes too long to do, so you’re free to enjoy most of the summer as you normally would. Yet you’ll still save you loads of time when you do get back to uni.

All for a little bit of forward planning. Good times!