The College Student’s Guide to Staying Sharp This Summer

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The College Student’s Guide to Staying Sharp This Summer

July 22, 2014 - 11:50am Leah Rabe

School’s out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you have to let your mind grow stagnant. There are plenty of steps you can take during this season that will help you stay sharp for when school starts up again in the fall. Rather than letting your mind turn to jelly as you binge-watch Netflix and eat ice cream, take a few simple steps to keep yourself in good shape emotionally, mentally, and physically.



Reading is one of the most useful and pleasant ways to keep your mind active even on break. However, it’s wise to select your summer reading material carefully—as C.S. Lewis says, “If you don’t read good books, you will read bad ones.” Make sure the books you read this summer challenge and enlighten you. Don’t settle for beach reads alone.


Goodreads can be a good site to start using over the summer. It allows you to keep track of the books you’ve read and review them, record what you’re reading now and how much progress you’ve made, and list what books you want to read in the future—all shared with your friends who are also on the site.

-Book recommendation sites

Book recommendation sites can be great resources when you’re stumped for something new to read. Whatshouldireadnext.com generates content based on titles you’ve recently enjoyed, gnooks.com predicts authors that you’ll like based on your current favorites, and Whichbook allows you to view book selections based on your mood. These can be a great jumping-off point for your reading list, as they’ll usually give you results you’ll enjoy.

-Summer Reading Lists

The internet is full of helpful summer reading lists for every age group in every genre. Such lists can be a great starting point for your summer reading adventures, especially if you’re at a complete loss as to what you should read. These can range anywhere from Amazon’s contemporary reading list to Goodreads’ compilation of classics—you’ll be sure to find something interesting.



The more you write, the better you’ll be at it—and conversely, if you leave your writing skills dormant all summer, they’ll start to disappear. There are lots of fun and easy ways to keep your writing skills sharp this summer.

-Keep a journal

 While it might make you feel like a teenage girl scribbling in her diary, many great men and women throughout history kept journals of their experiences and thoughts. Journaling can be a very rewarding experience, as you get to practice your writing, record the important parts of your life, and sort out your thoughts. Take this summer to start journaling—whether that means jotting down a one-sentence summary of your day or composing a sonnet.

-Respond to writing prompts.

Writing prompts are perfect for those times when you know you should write, but don’t know what to write. There are thousands of writing prompts available online; just visiting a few of these writing prompts websites should be more than enough to get your creative juices flowing.

-Submit Freelance Work

 Countless online magazines and newspapers accept articles from freelance writers. This means that you have the opportunity to get published this summer--and some of these websites will even pay you for your work! Find some websites that accept freelance submissions and start writing on topics that you’re knowledgeable about and that interest you!


Teach Yourself Valuable Skills

Just because you don’t have class in the summer doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Take advantage of your free time to teach yourself valuable skills that you’ll be able to use throughout your life.


Copywriting is an intensely marketable skill, and there are some simple and practical ways to start getting good at it over the summer. Implement a “Copy Hour” each day, where you take a select amount of time (it doesn’t have to be a full hour; it could be anywhere from 20-60 minutes) to copy out, by hand, articles written by a copywriter you admire. If you don't know of any copywriters, try the course Copy Hour. In the act of physically writing their words out, you will train yourself to write well. 


 Coding is another invaluable skill you can train yourself to do thanks to the magic of the internet. Codeacademy.com offers free training so that you can become a pro from the comfort of your laptop. Coding is a valuable and marketable skill, and by learning it you’ll be primed and ready to keep pace with advancing technology.


Even if you don’t consider yourself an artsy person, it will still benefit you to learn the basics of typeface and layout. The internet has innumerable resources that you can use to educate yourself on the basics of this marketable skill. Before you know it, even your school papers will start looking like works of art.


Take a few hours this summer to learn the basics of cooking (or, if you’re already a pro at the basics, teach yourself some gourmet skills!). This will be extremely helpful to you in college, as you can cook your own meals instead of buying expensive take-out. It’ll also impress your friends...a lot.


Prepare for Your Future

The summer is a great time to prepare for your future career (even if thinking about that seems scary and intimidating at this point). Take this time to get ready for the future—you won’t regret it.


One of the best ways to prepare for your future career is to talk to people who are already involved in that field. If you’re nervous about interviewing people in your prospective field, Mixergy provides a handy PDF guide for interviewing your heroes.

-Get interviewed

You can also get interviewed this summer. Help a Reporter Out (or HARO) allows you to answer questions from reporters regarding fields you’re knowledgeable about. There are always reporters looking for college students to talk about the economy, student debt, and the state of higher education. This gives you the opportunity for some free publicity, as well as the opportunity to be heard and help out media professionals.

-Get a summer job

 This can either be something directly related to your future career or just a fun summer job. It can either be a full-time job that takes up your entire summer, or a part-time job that requires a few hours on the weekends. Either way, you’ll be keeping busy,  getting paid, and making connections with other people—none of which are bad things.

-Look for scholarships
If you just graduated from high school, you should definitely use the summer to seek out and apply for scholarships. (This will also give you a chance to hone your writing skills, as most scholarships require an application essay). Even if you’re a current college student, you can still look for scholarships—there are a few available to enrolled students that are worth your time.


Go Outside

It’s important to keep your body fit as well as your mind, and the summer means that you have more time to exercise and enjoy recreational activities than you do during the school year.


Take advantage of the summer freedom by running (though try to run early enough in the morning to beat the summer heat!). Running is an easy way to work out, as it doesn’t require a gym membership or fancy equipment—all you need is your feet and a pair of sneakers (though an iPod is highly recommended).

-Go Swimming!

 Nothing is as pleasant as a cool swim on a hot summer day. Whether the beach or the pool, find somewhere to swim some laps this summer—it’s an easy way to stay fit and feel great!

-Take up a sport as a hobby.

Summer is the perfect time to take up a sport that you’ve always wanted to play. Join a local amateur team and start playing--even if you’re no good. The only way you’ll get better is through practice, and you’ll have fun doing it--so if you’re especially soccer savvy or you’ve got a taste for tennis, summer’s the time to start playing!