Summer is a time when students relax and spend more time with friends outside, but this does not mean that this time cannot also be used to catch up on schoolwork that might have been missed or was not properly explained during the year. It might be daunting to think about doing schoolwork over the summer, but it can be a good investment of a student’s time to be more fully prepared for the upcoming year. We’ve put together a few tips to help get started.
Figure out which courses you had trouble with during the school year. This can be an important first step to knowing how much time you need to devote to each subject (if more than one). Sometimes, it is not the whole subject you had issues with, but maybe a chapter or a concept. If you did not understand a concept, you would not need to study all of the material covered in class. You could focus on the specific aspects you had trouble understanding. A quick way to complete this step is to take a look at your grades (though this is not always going to give the full picture). If there are courses where you would like to improve or where you feel you are struggling, summer can be a great time to devote some more time to them.
Honestly assess your skills and comfort levels. Sometimes, the reason students are not able to keep up with a course is that they do not have enough time, because other obligations get in the way (another course which is less clear, a job, extracurriculars, etc.). This is not to say they have any trouble with the material, but they just did not have enough time to keep up. If you think you will not be able to catch up on your own, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. If you ask, some teachers will even give you worksheets or tips on what you can do to improve for next year.
DID YOU KNOW?
Even putting in a bit of time each day, can have dramatic overall results.
Ask yourself “Are my difficulties to do with not understanding the material or are they with not understanding how to arrive at the final answer?”. This can be a difficult question to answer and might need more information. You can look at your old tests and compare how you did on the theory questions to the practical side. Some questions to consider asking yourself are: “Can I explain the theory to someone else?”, “After understanding the theory, can I complete the question?”, “Is another subject the issue?”, “After I take a break, can I still explain the theory and do the problems?”. Each of these questions can help you determine how to proceed with studying. For example, with the “Is another subject the issue?” question, some students will not be able to do well in chemistry if their mathematics skills are not at the right level. If you are still not sure, you can consider talking to a professional (your teacher, a tutor, your TA, the professor, etc.) who is often better able to assess where your difficulties lie and help you overcome them.
Take time to relax. While it may seem counterintuitive to relax while you should be studying, taking breaks actually helps when learning new material. Though, a word of warning, you should not take breaks that are too long. Remember, that the summer is also a time when you should be unwinding before the start of another school year.
Put in the time. It might be tempting to think you have plenty of time to catch up during the summer but be aware that they fly by very quickly. Take the time to (honestly) complete the above steps so you know how much time you think you will need to catch up and plan accordingly. For example, if you think you will need two weeks to catch up, do not start catching up the day before school starts, because you will miss the first two weeks of your new year. This will make it that much harder to catch up with what you are covering now. Instead, plan for two weeks at the beginning, or in the middle, or the last three weeks (to give yourself some time if you did not estimate correctly, or more time to relax if you did).
It doesn’t have to be for hours a day (unless you’re really behind). Some students think they will not fit in if they spend too much time studying during the summer, but even a little bit of time here and there can have an impact (though, more continued work will be needed if the student has larger gaps in their knowledge). Even if you devote under and hour a day, you will still have time to see your friends and enjoy the summer, while catching up with your schoolwork.
Putting in a little bit of time over the summer to catch up on various topics that will be covered next year can be a good investment of your time, especially if you are busy during the year with extracurriculars or other obligations. Remember that summer should be a time when students relax and take time to unwind, but do not be afraid to put in the time to make the following year easier for you.
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