By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
In this blog post, I share 8 things to do over the summer that will make college easier. I’m not talking about taking summer courses – although that’s a brilliant idea. Instead, I’m talking about 8 activities that target the same exact skills you’ll need to survive and succeed at the college level. In other words, the more you do from the list below, the better prepared you’ll be when you start or return to college in the fall.
Now, I know that summers are meant for friends, relaxation, and non-school things. Yes, yes – please get plenty of that. However, if you’re a college student or a soon-to-be college student, your summers are going to look and feel … what’s the word … adulty. And they should. That’s a sign that you’re doing the right things.
8 things to do over the summer that will make college easier
I’ve previously written about various activities that you can do over the summer to build your resume. Those activities are important (there are 3 of them), but they’re a little different from the list I’m sharing below. Let’s dive in.
1. Keep a calendar.
If you’re college-aged and not keeping a personal calendar, you’re missing out on a key skill you need in college and beyond. Also, you’re probably late to a lot of things. Over the summer, use Google Calendar (here’s how) to track work hours, appointments, birthdays, you name it. If it’s attached to a date, put it in your calendar.
Building calendar skills over the summer can make college easier. When you already have the habit of adding dates and checking your calendar regularly, it will be second nature to continue that habit when you need to manage deadlines, due dates, class hours, and meetings in college.
2. Set a goal.
Set a goal for yourself to complete by the end of summer. Pick a goal, any goal – just make it one that you actually care about. Once you set your goal, figure out what you need to do to reach it by using reverse engineering, which I teach you how to do here.
Goal setting, which includes thinking about a goal, choosing a deadline, breaking it into micro-steps to be tackled each day, and committing to the goal no matter how hard things get, requires the exact same skills you’ll need in college and beyond. Quite literally, the ability to set and reach a goal is required to achieve anything.
3. Read a book.
Reading makes you better at reading. (Look at me all full of facts.) So if you read a book over the summer – whether it’s a required summer assignment or not – you’re going to improve your reading skills. And you don’t need me to tell you that having solid reading skills will one hundred percent make college easier.
Reading requires so many cognitive skills, including sustained attention, metacognition, and working memory. The more you read, the more you strengthen these incredibly valuable skills.
Also, it’s wonderful if you enjoy the book you read, but if you don’t enjoy the book you read, you get the bonus skill of figuring out how to endure hard and boring things. And that, my friends, is the ultimate college and life skill.
4. Write something.
Writing makes you better at writing. (Do you see a pattern here?) I’m not suggesting you write essays over the summer for fun, but I am suggesting that you get yourself in the habit of writing something over the summer. A logical place to start would be journaling. If you have ADHD or executive function deficits, I suggest you start with my Executive Function Journal. If you’re not into journaling, you could try writing old-fashioned snail-mail letters to people. Think how surprised and happy some of your family members would be to open the mailbox to a handwritten (or typed) letter from you! Cheesy? Maybe. But also really awesome.
The benefit of doing some kind of consistent writing over the summer is that it keeps your mind primed for the type of cognitive tasks required of you every day in college. It’s not like you’d forget how to write if you took a break over the summer, but you’re not doing yourself any favors either.
5. Manage your email.
Here’s my complete tutorial about managing email as a student. It’s full of tips, strategies and recommendations, and I strongly suggest you read it when you’re done here.
Managing your email over the summer will make your return to college so much easier because not only are you preventing your inbox from becoming an overgrown jungle, but you’re building and maintaining your email habit.
Building and maintaining an email routine in college is a critical skill because as you know, email is a primary form of communication with your professors. Learning when to check your email, how frequently, what type of messages to respond to, and how to respond to messages is important in college and beyond.
6. Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
No, I’m not suggesting you wake up at 5 AM and go to bed at 8 PM over the summer. (I’m not a monster.) But there is tremendous value in maintaining some kind of regular sleep schedule over the summer months. You might sleep later and stay up later than you do over the school year – and that’s fine – but there are important biological benefits to generally waking up and going to bed at the same-ish time each day.
The ability to regulate your sleep schedule and sleep hygiene will definitely make college life easier because we all turn to banana mush if we have poor sleep habits.
7. Maintain a basic exercise routine.
No one is suggesting you climb Mount Everest over the summer. But maintaining a basic summer exercise routine that’s a combination of something challenging (it should get your heart rate up) and fun is not only good for you, but it also builds some important skills you’ll need in college. Sticking with a consistent exercise routine trains you to be able to do hard things even when you don’t want to. It also helps you develop impulse control, prioritization, and the skills to beat procrastination.
8. Do something to add to your resume.
Building your college skills over the summer through goal setting, reading, writing, using calendars, and managing your email is awesome – and telling you that is the whole point of this blog post. However, I also suggest that you do at least one thing over that summer that you can add to your student resume. Here are 3 ways to boost your student resume over the summer if you need some help thinking of ideas. The benefit of doing a resume-boosting activity over the summer is that all resume-worthy activities also build the exact types of skills you need in college.