In a few short, well actually, not-so-short months, eighth grade will be behind you, and you will have a full summer ahead of you. Should you binge-watch your favorite shows? Sleep until noon every day? Engage fully in the art of hanging out? While there is some benefit to changing your routine during the summer months, we recommend you do it with some intention and with a plan. How do you make the most of that time and still feel refreshed? Here are a few things to consider.
Don’t get rusty
Although there are many objectives for an enjoyable summer, we should not forget to take the time to position ourselves for a great freshman year. Review your courses from the past year. Were any of them for high school credit? You may have already started building your high school transcript and GPA. Review your work from the previous year and note which topics were most difficult for you, or could at least use some review before next year. For example, take a look at your math class for next year. Perhaps scheduling some time with a tutor for a preview of introductory concepts will help you know what to expect and feel confident in those early weeks so you can stay on top of the class all year long. You can certainly do this for your science or English classes as well. Finally, check your new school’s reading requirements for incoming freshmen. Select a book (or two or three) and get started. If your school doesn’t have a reading list, build one yourself using online searches for “typical freshman high school books” or similar.
Don’t worry, we are not suggesting you only spend time on your school subjects. Avoiding summer brain drain can be enjoyable and need not be boring. While school is out, you have more time to get into topics that interest you, not just ones assigned to you. Take a look at available summer activities that will help you develop your skills in an existing or potential interest. You can also start learning about something new that you may not have had time for during the school year. Maybe you want to develop your leadership or public speaking skills. Perhaps you would like to work with other coders, artists, or musicians to share techniques and observations. Summer programs exist for you to do just that. Because of limited space and availability, it’s a good idea to start researching them now.
Tuning up the engine
Aside from the academic and intellectual opportunities summertime presents, we also get the opportunity to take stock in ourselves as functional, whole human beings, not just students. Take some time to think about what worked well for you this past year. Make a list of those habits – diet, exercise, and sleep – that helped you perform your best this year. Find out how much sleep you actually need. How many hours do you need to wake up on your own and to feel refreshed? Is it seven and a half? Eight and a half? Nine? Once you determine it, you can put it into practice for the rest of the summer and plan your sleep for next school year.
It can also be helpful to note what didn’t work out as well. What patterns and habits worked once, but did not work out as ongoing strategies? Here is a great opportunity to get a little outside feedback and perspective from a friend, sibling, or other family member who sees you during the school year. You can control the discussion by asking for one piece of advice about a positive or negative habit you had this past year.
A final item in personal inventory is to understand how we react to stress. Recall what situations, events, or people cause us to be more stressed. More importantly, identify the successful strategies you have for dealing with stress. Do you have a de-stress music mix on your phone? A workout routine that helps you regain perspective? A trusted friend who lets you vent and discuss what’s on your mind? Maybe you flex your creative muscles and draw, write, sing, or perform to reaffirm that whatever is bothering you is temporary and can be overcome. Use the summer to build a plan for dealing with stress in the future.
You’re still young, and that’s ok!
We’ve been discussing how to take advantage of the downtime when school is out. We also want to remind you that recharging is an important task for summer. As you well know, once August rolls around, you can begin to feel the requirements of school creeping back onto your schedule. Pretty soon it’s Labor Day, and we’re off. Therefore, it is important to refresh ourselves when we can, so that we can start the new academic calendar with excitement and anticipation.
At the beginning of summer, plan when you will make time for your favorite activities, your friends, and yourself. Think about what you strategically decided to skip during the year because of a busy schedule. Now we can go to that concert that’s a short drive away. The evening movie or party won’t be so problematic now that you can sleep in a bit. Contact your friends from other classes or other schools and get together. Enjoy that family trip or activity that now won’t cause homework to pile up. In short, it is ok to have some downtime. Spend the time nurturing relationships with people you love and taking care of yourself as well. Summer is a great time to build memories that will sustain us through the academic year ahead.
We hope you find some suggestion here useful. Bookmark it to re-read after your last summer class, and have fun planning a great vacation!