With the summer break already in full swing for some people, it can be easy for thoughts to drift to relaxing and having a bit of a break for studying. However, the thought of returning to education can never be too far from your mind, especially with shops already stocking masses of back to school and university supplies.
While it is important to have some time off and relax, it's also important to make sure you're totally prepared for the upcoming year so you start off on the right foot. This can be especially important if you're kicking your education up a gear, such as going into your first year of university, or starting your honours year.
We've got some tips on how you can get yourself prepared for the upcoming year and still leave yourself plenty of time to relax and enjoy your break.
Sort Your Reading List
If it all possible, you should try and get a copy of the reading list for your particular course or class as soon as possible. Chances are you'll be given these before you break up for the summer, or if you're just about to start university or college, they are usually sent out in your welcome pack. These are a great way to get a head-start on the material you'll be taught that year so you don't go back after the summer feeling lost or overwhelmed.
You usually don't have to read every single book that is on your reading list, so make sure you pay attention to which texts have been marked as essential and which ones are just recommended for further reading. Obviously, if you have the time you can feel free to read as much as you like, but you may just want to focus on the essential reading just now, and catch up on the other texts throughout the year or when they become relevant to a particular class or assignment. Also see if your teacher has recommend any particular chapters or sections, as again you may be able to just focus on sections of the book, instead of reading the whole thing when it may not be useful to you.
Next you want to think about how you're going to get your hands on the books you need to read. If you can get your reading list early, it's a good idea to check out some secondhand book shops. Most will have an academic book section, and your university may even have one themselves. All the students who have just finished the year you are about to go into will more than likely be getting rid of the very books you need to get your hands on, and if you can get the books secondhand you'll save yourself a lot of money.
If you want to pick up the books from a library, it can be a bit more work, as everyone on your course will be looking for the same books, so you may have to go on a wait-list to actually get the book to read. Getting organised early could mean you get all the books you need without having to worry about tracking them down or spending lots of money. If you do have to buy the book full price, why not buy the books as you need to read them? Spending a huge chunk of money at once can seem quite off-putting, and you may not even get around to reading everything you planned on anyway. Buying one at a time and then picking up the next one when you're finished will not only help spread the cost of your books, but it will also help prevent you feeling overwhelmed if you have this huge pile of books waiting to be read.
The best thing about reading is it's easy to do on the go, especially if you can get digital copies of books or journals you need to read, so use this to your advantage. If you're going on holiday in the summer months, or if you travelling to work on public transport, use these opportunities to get some reading done. Getting some studying done while you're on the go is a great use of your time, and it will help prevent you feeling like you're wasting your time off by not relaxing, as you'll still get plenty of time to have fun if you work your studying around what you're already doing.
Depending on how your course is run, you may have a big project you have already been preparing for which you will need to actually complete when you come back after the summer. Similarly, if you are entering your final year, you may have to start thinking about a final project or dissertation, which will probably take up quite a lot of your time. If you know these things are coming after the holidays, and you know how important they are, then using your summer to plan for them can be a great idea.
Spending your time off writing a plan for upcoming projects is a great idea for a number of reasons. First of all, you can go back after the summer feeling prepared and ready to get stuck into your assignment. It can be easy to switch off and forget about our commitments over the summer months, so knowing that you spent some time on getting organised in advance will put you in a good frame of mind.
It also gives you the chance to identify any problems. You may think your idea for an essay is perfect, but when you go to research it you find out there's actually not much material you can reference. If you leave your planning till the last minute a discovery like this can leave you stressed and you will need to either pick a new topic and rush through the whole process, or produce an essay of a lower quality than you expected. If you discover an issue with your project in the planning stages, well in advance of when you actually need to complete it, you can take the time to pick a new topic and research it thoroughly to make sure you're happy with it. This will make sure you produce the best work possible and help keep you calm and organised.
Finally, if you have the whole summer to plan a project, you can do little pieces of work whenever you have the time, and not feel like you're constantly bogged down with school work, but still get lots done!
Revise Your Old Work
You may not know exactly what you're going to be doing in your next year of education, but if you're studying some similar classes to the ones you did last year, the best thing you can do is study using the notes you already have. You don't have to read over absolutely everything you've done, but reading over the main bulk of the work can give you a refresher on the things you need to know going into your next year.
It may also be a good idea to read any past assignments you did for that class, such as essays and exams. Not only will this give you more insight into the topic, but it will also let you see any problems you were having along the way, and what sort of things you lost marks on last year, as this will tell you what you need to work on for your upcoming classes.
Reading over your old work is a great way to ease you back into a subject, as you're just going over things you've already covered, instead of trying to learn lots of new things over the summer. That way you can start the next year feeling prepared and knowing what you are in for, without spending the whole summer revising.
Getting ready for the new academic year doesn't have to mean giving up your whole summer to studying. While it's important to get organised and feel ready to hit the books again, it's also just as important to relax and have some time off so you don't burn out. It's important to find that balance so you come back to school feeling refreshed and ready for what the next year has to throw at you.
Finding small ways to slot studying into your summer schedule is the best way to do this, as you get the best of both worlds!