Strategies for summer success

Students need different skills to thrive in summer classes.

by Trent M. Kays

The spring semester has ended, yet coursework for many has not. Summer coursework is often a time for students to catch up on classes or take courses that will accelerate their degree progress. However, many students fail to understand exactly what it means to take a summer course. Though many courses during the regular semester sessions can be considered difficult, summer coursework is a particular challenge, and one to be navigated with care.

The pace of summer coursework is extreme. It’s fast and covers a lot in a short amount of time. The summer course of eight weeks is almost insane. A teacher must try to cover the same material for a 15-16 week course in eight and expect students to understand said material. It’s quite difficult for all involved, and it requires a certain way of thinking and working in order to get through everything and survive.

First, students need to realize that typical studying strategies may not work for an accelerated summer course. They will need to really focus and spend hours of their time working on course material before going to class. Much like study habits during the regular semester, students must focus on increments and not everything at once. If you focus on a few pages of material at a time and ensure you understand it, then you’ll have no trouble working through the material.

Second, when it comes to assignments, do not procrastinate. There is no time. I have been known to procrastinate because that seems to be part of my writing process; however, there is no time during the summer to do so. If students procrastinate, they will fall behind. So, for the summer, it’s imperative that students focus and schedule time to work on assignments. Treat the assignments like a job, and pencil it in on a calendar.

Third, many students often have trouble writing during the regular semester, and due to the accelerated nature of the summer this trouble is often compounded. The important thing about writing is that you do it. Sit down and write. It’s hard to do so at the beginning, but the more you write, the easier it becomes. Since the summer is so fast, often writing tools that focus you are helpful. For example, OmniFocus or Microsoft Office’s full screen option deters wandering eyes and minds.

Fourth, it’s hard to map work or ideas out, especially when you’d rather be out kayaking on Lake Calhoun. But, it’s important for students to map out and brainstorm their ideas just like they would during the regular semester session. Much in the same way you’d schedule time to work, you should schedule time to brainstorm. Get some butcher paper and draw out your ideas and see where connections arise. Or, use mind-mapping software, like XMind, and plot your work and arguments out to see if you’re making connections where you want. These types of strategies are helpful, and they will help students easily visualize their work.

These types of points are valuable, even during the regular semester session; however, summer students are presented with particular work habit issues that make getting work done difficult. The ability to consume and process 16 weeks’ worth of material in eight weeks is more difficult than many realize, but it can be done. With focus and resolve, any student can be successful during the summer, especially if they are determined to do so. The above strategies can serve as aids to students and, hopefully, ease the stress of summer coursework.

 In the end, the important thing is to strive on with diligence.