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Top 5 Tips for Student Success This Summer

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tips-for-summerAh, summer. It’s a welcome break from the constant grind of classes, homework, and tests; a time to catch up on sleep and your favorite TV shows. But wait a minute! Before you melt into a puddle of summertime mush, take a look at the following tips to keep your brain sharp and get ready for the upcoming school year—which, after all, will be here before you know it.

1. Take a class.

If you’re in college, your school probably has a summer session where you can take courses for credit. You might want to get a required class out of the way now so you’ll have more flexibility with your schedule later. If there’s a class you’re really afraid of, consider taking it by itself over the summer so you won’t have other coursework to worry about.

This is also a great time to take advantage of the proliferation of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on sites such as Coursera, or the online tutorials available at Khan Academy. Let your intellectual curiosity run wild! You can explore familiar subjects in greater depth or try something totally new. Who knows—you may discover a newfound interest in the Science of Gastronomy, or Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (both real courses, by the way).

2. Keep reviewing for “cumulative” classes.

In subjects such as math and foreign languages, classes build on what you learned in the previous semester; so if you think you can forget everything once finals are over, think again. Set aside some time each week to review the material—practice a few math problems, look over your flash cards, read through your notes, and so on. When the school year starts up again, you won’t have to waste time trying to relearn what was covered last term.

3. Read for fun.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, serious or funny, reading is the best way to keep your brain from atrophying over the summer. Now that you have no set curriculum, you can read anything that piques your interest. This is a great way to learn about yourself as well as subjects you may not normally encounter in school. Not surprisingly, reading for pleasure is positively linked with creativity among college students. It also gives you a better feel for the English language, which in turn makes you a better writer.

4. Practice taking notes.

A lot of students have trouble taking good notes in class. They may write down too much or too little, or their notes might not be clear enough to study from later. If you have this problem, try working on your skills over the summer. Spend a few minutes each day taking notes on news shows, documentaries, or online lectures. Afterwards, review your notes and think about how they could be improved. Are you using abbreviations? Are you listening for and indicating the main ideas? Are you including enough information to flesh out the topic? (For detailed advice on how to take notes, check out Chapter 5 of The Secrets of Top Students.)

5. Make a list of your goals for the coming school year and how you plan to achieve them.

Spend a few minutes brainstorming about your goals and write down whatever comes to mind. Do you have to get your college applications in order? Is it time to ask for a letter of recommendation? Do you want to stop procrastinating on assignments? Choose five to ten goals and, for each one, write down the steps needed to accomplish it. Be as specific as you can. The more concrete your goals are, the more motivated you’ll be when school’s back in session.

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to relax and have fun. It’s important to recharge your batteries before you head back to school. May you have a great, productive, and memorable summer!

To learn more tips to help you be a successful student, check out The Secrets of Top Students in the College Countdown Bookstore today.


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Stefanie Weisman became the valedictorian of Stuyvesant High School in 1999 and went on to study history at Columbia University. She was awarded the Albert Asher Green Prize for having the highest GPA in her class. After working for several years in corporate America, she got her M.A. in the history of art and archaeology. She was a Craig Hugh Smyth fellow at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Around this time, Weisman developed an interest in technology and returned to Columbia to get a B.S. in computer science.

Weisman is the author of The Secrets of Top Students.