It might seem somewhat early to cast our minds ahead and think about the (hopefully!) glorious summer which awaits us, especially when assignments are due and upcoming exams occupy our thoughts. Last Easter was a blur of exam revision, countless essay plans and Lindt chocolate (Easter would not be the same without a Lindt bunny!) for me as I prepared for my then-upcoming A-level exams, which began even earlier than for most students because I had to sit my French oral exam at the end of April.
Although the pressure of being a university student is remarkably less than being a prospective student reaching the end of Year 13, coping with the last few weeks and months of the academic year at university is still stressful. OK, I might be slightly procrastinating by writing this post instead of writing another essay, but there is nothing wrong with stepping away from your books and revision notes to dive into a more pleasant subject – your plans for the summer.
The summer break for university students is considerably longer than what you would have been accustomed to in college or sixth form. In fact, I feel a bit intimidated by the long duration of the upcoming summer holiday which, in a sense, has already started for me because my final lectures and seminars of the current academic year took place last week. Therefore, my next seminar and lecture will recommence at the very end of September – nearly half a year away!
Once exams are done and essay assignments have been completed, there will inevitably be a considerable amount of free time available. However, as the famous maxim warns, less is more, and having too much freedom to do whatever you want quickly becomes as boring as re-watching your favourite TV show on a constant loop! (and I wouldn’t recommend devoting the entire summer to the incredibly important duty of binge-watching Netflix either!)
Instead, I propose that you try to allocate some time to contemplate what you will do in the summer if you are still unsure. Even I have not completely figured out my plans (yet another form of needless procrastination!), but it never harms to be a bit prepared instead of leaving everything to the last minute.
Get a job
Obviously easier said than done, as I personally experienced last summer when it took me nearly three months to find a job, ironically after the main summer holidays had finished. The ease or difficulty of securing employment depends on your location and your working preferences. If you have no qualms about working in a variety of different environments, such as a factory, or you are able to drive to harder-to-access areas, you significantly increase your chances of finding a suitable job.
However, it is important to realise that employers may prefer to hire people who will be staying in the area beyond the summer break. Still, it is always a good idea to gain work experience whenever possible (which would make your CV or LinkedIn account more attractive to future employers!), especially as it could help you figure out potential career paths (or which careers to avoid) in the distant, yet ever-approaching future.
Create your own job
If my first suggestion literally does not work, do not despair or start delving into your student overdraft quite yet! The job market might not always be welcoming to younger people, but this might be an ideal way of motivating you to create your unique form of income.
For example, there are many websites on which you can upload and sell revision resources. This is particularly useful for A-levels because the curriculum is newer, which means that fewer revision resources, e.g. exam-style essays or mind-maps, are available. However, I have discovered that much of what you may study at university this year corresponds with texts or topics taught in A-level syllabuses. Consequently, it is possible for university students to create revision resources aimed at A-level students!
I know that my ideas have so far leaned towards a work-based approach, but I believe that volunteering for charities is such an awarding experience because not all extra-curricular activities should revolve around remuneration.
Fitting in time to support charities is difficult during a busy academic year, so it makes sense to get involved during the summer when there may be fewer volunteers available, e.g. summer holidays/childcare.
From helping out in food banks to working in charity shops, voluntary work comes in a variety of forms and, unlike employment, it is more casual. Therefore, becoming a volunteer does not restrict your time or ability to do other activities.
Learn a new skill
I’m not going to advise you on which skill that you should learn because everyone has different talents (and playing tennis is definitely not mine!), but it never hurts to discover an ability that you previously did not know that you had.
It doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money, if any, to learn a new skill. For example, you can download various apps for free to learn how to speak a foreign language or do sporting activities – ideal for saving up your maintenance loan over the long summer break!
Maybe study (a bit)?
Probably the last thing that you want to contemplate at the moment while you are overwhelmed with revision and essays but, believe me, there will probably be some moments during the summer holiday when you will be wondering what to do.
Therefore, let’s not forget that universities usually send out reading lists over the summer to inform you of which books that you need to buy or read before the academic year begins. To relieve yourself of some stress in the near future, why not do some academic reading? If you have to read a massive book, you can do so at your own pace during the summer without the terror of a fast-approaching seminar breathing on your neck!
I hope that these ideas might stimulate your own thoughts on how you will make the most of a restful and much-deserved summer break – a wonderful prospect which should keep you motivated over Easter!