Strategies for Summer Studying

Young female adult learner studying on a dock during summer

When I was working on my graduate degree, the summer quarter was always the most difficult. I didn’t want to be inside working on a paper or studying for an exam when everyone else was enjoying the nice weather. I already worked all day and now I would have to head home and spend even more time inside. Or did I? 

My first tip, is if you love summer weather like I do, consider lightening your workload. The school I attended was on a quarter system. I would take 2 classes Fall, Winter, and Spring but just 1 in the Summer. It was still a challenge to complete my work, but doable. I talk to so many students that just want to get the degree done, but a little break may help your mental health and give you the respite you need to recharge.  

Time is limited, so make the most of it. Use active reading strategies. The SQ4R Method is what helped me the most.  

Survey - Get a general idea of the content, structure, organization, and plan of the chapter.

Question - Turn your chapter headings into questions.

Read - Read to answer your questions.

Recite - Would you be able to describe what you just read? Make sure you understand the material and can explain it in your own words.

wRite - Jot down a few sentences to capture the main ideas. This helps you absorb what you read and provides study and review materials for exams and other writing assignments. 

Review - Reviewing helps you to increase retention and eliminate cramming sessions prior to exams. When you finish the chapter look over your notes, can you recite the main points?

Ok, so you can’t take your laptop to a baseball game, but you can take note cards or a tablet.  When studying for the GRE I had at least 25 vocabulary flashcards on me at all times. When the umpire called my sibling out, I could have a histrionic diatribe with a laudable vocabulary. So take advantage of those micro-moments when you’re in between pitches, at the end of innings, or waiting in a check-out line with all those game snacks. You can also use the time for the “recite and review” from your readings, review a classmate’s post on your discussion board, or do a math problem. You don’t always need an hour-long work session.  

Psychologists say that you learn best in short takes. In fact, studies have shown that as much is learned in four one-hour sessions distributed over four days as in one marathon six-hour session. One reason you learn better this way is that you use time more efficiently when you’re under an imposed time restriction. Can you take your lunch break outside and work on your class? Where can you find an hour each day? I can tell you from experience having to spend 6 hours on a Saturday on coursework in the summer is miserable, so find that hour! 

Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused, this summer try out a time management strategy called the Pomodoro Method. Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro,” named after the Italian word for tomato because the inventor, Francesco Cirillo, used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. The process is simple: you work for 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes. After two “pomodoros” have passed, you are done! If you think this might work there are free apps available.  

When I was just 4 courses into my graduate degree I already felt like I had been in the program forever and was losing steam. I had a professor tell me to lighten my load for a term as this degree wasn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon. That was one of the best pieces of advice I received and helped me to achieve my goal. Good luck and try to enjoy your summer!

Written by: Melissa Kessler

July 13, 2021

About the Author

Melissa Kessler headshot

Melissa brings 25 years of experience in higher education to Bright Horizons, including 15 years as the Assistant Director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at Rochester Institute of Technology and 7 years advising within a Nursing program. Melissa holds a Master’s in Career Development.