Summer school can be brutal. No matter how much I rationalize, justify and bargain with myself about it, summer rolls around and I just can’t bring myself to go back to school.
That was certainly the case last summer. I had decided to drop a stats course during the regular school year for a whole bunch of airtight, valid reasons: Profs told me that taking it in conjunction with two other required courses was a bad idea, it was a huge roadblock in my schedule, etc. Also, I really wasn’t looking forward to it.
And so I made that all-too-common leap of logic – “since it’s so hard, if I do it over the summer, I’ll be able to really focus on it because it will be my only course.” The flipside, of course, was that if I did it over the summer, I would be doing the same hard requirement I didn’t really want to do – in the summer (has the word summer lost its meaning for you yet?).
But back in the previous September, with a few months’ relaxation under my belt, a full course-load and school in full swing, only one course eight months away sounded like a piece of cake. So I went onto ROSI and, after a few clicks, sealed my fate.
This summer, I have opted to do a super-condensed LSAT prep course before writing it in June. That is to say, summer school students, I’m right here with you.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the total attitude shift which, in hindsight, was inevitable given the increasing temperature. Think of it as April Exam Syndrome times ten. Just when the weather is finally nice enough to be outside, you’re cooped up inside. The best you can hope for is a carrel with a view, which is exceedingly hard to come by during exams. Why times ten? Because the weather is (or should be) ten times nicer and (all figures approximate) ten times as many of your friends are done school and ready to sit endlessly on patios. That is, it can feel ten times harder to focus on school.
But don’t despair! It’s not all bad news. I find there are aspects of summer courses that make it easier to do well. Plus, this blog post will hopefully impart a few of my hard-learned summer school lessons.
One of the benefits of summer classes is that they happen more frequently. Though this can be annoying, I found it helped me keep on top of my work. Instead of thinking “I have a week to do this,” I would think “I have to get this done in two days.” The result: it actually got done.
Another nice thing is that they allow you access to the AC (additional fee-free), although I didn’t take advantage of this perk as much as I should have on the grounds that statistics classes are not conducive to frequent beach-going.
One fact/myth is that the same year-long courses are easier over the summer — easier-going profs, easier to get good grades, more non-U of T students so easier to be on top of the curve. Much to my chagrin, this was not my experience and I don’t think it’s a hard-and-fast rule. If it’s a hard course in general – that you don’t particularly want to take, but need to – it will be just as hard over the summer.
Something I learned is to be realistic about your commitments. I figured one course meant I could take on a lot and I did. Three jobs to be exact. If you are planning on working while doing summer school (as many of us have to), try to find a place that understands that you’re still a student and the flexibility/time commitment that requires.
This goes for leisure time, too. Between studying for my LSATs and working at the best job ever, inevitably when I finish my workday I want to hang out with friends for a few hours, and I tell myself I’ll do homework later. Which I often don’t do. My biggest tip in this regard is to get into a summer groove, which for me involves setting up a schedule. I’ve found it helpful to try to maximize “fun time” by arranging to meet people when I would likely not be working anyways — dinnertime, lunchtime, coffee time, gym time (the essentials). Now that I’ve figured out roughly how long it takes to do my LSAT coursework every night, I’ve started to figure out how much time can be allotted to other activities.
Going to the library also helps me get into the school frame of mind. I find the more time I spend on campus, the more I feel like school is still in session. Robarts is open until 11 most nights during the summer and it’s always nice to see you’re not the only one cooped up on a Thursday night.
The most important thing I’ve found, though, is that you still need to take a break. My summer class last year started the week after my regular exams finished and stretched until mid-August. I doubt I would have been able to survive the next year had I not taken time away from school completely. That meant structuring my time carefully to allow for weekends away, nights out, and concerts. This involved prioritizing more than I have in other summers, but the result was that I didn’t feel like I had missed out on summer altogether. As well, for those two weeks I had off at the end, I got as far away from school mentally and physically as possible — I hiked around Banff and Canmore in Alberta. Whatever it is you want to do, just don’t neglect your adventure-time.
And finally, if anyone asks why you simply have to [insert dream two-week activity here], use my airtight logic: I needed to take this summer school class, but I don’t want to burn out in my fall courses, so it’s actually necessary for my academic success to …” Who could argue with that?