Summertime: Sit Back And Unwind (and plan!)

Tom Fritz

June 14, 2018

Have you noticed there are fewer students in classrooms around, but far more families for orientation? Does the sun stay up longer, and you don’t need to use your heavy coat as often? Are you finding yourself humming along with the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff as they talk about the smell of a grill sparking up nostalgia? 


If you answered yes to any of these, you may be experiencing summer on your campus. If you are a graduate student, the summer months may feel very different than they did in previous years. Especially after grueling months finishing up courses, writing, assistantships, and projects, the summer can seem like a time to kick back and regroup, or travel to a new campus for an internship opportunity. While summers should provide some recharging, they can also be a chance to set up higher levels of productivity once fall semester rolls around. Depending on where you are in your program, here are a few tips to use your summer to springboard you into a better fall. 


If you are starting a Master’s program for the first time in the fall:

Take time to reflect on your previous experience, and think about how the experience can inform your graduate experience. The student you were in undergrad does not have to be who you are as a graduate student, and many (myself included) choose to shift the type of student they are during graduate work. Questions to consider include: what type of studying works best for me? What are writing and reading practices that work best for me? What do I want to learn over the next few years?
Think about how you will keep yourself organized. Graduate work can be much more intense than you previous experiences, and will come at you much faster. Take the time before your classes start to think about how you want to organize your notes, and make sure you are staying on top of all of your assignments. This could be using a new organizational method, a paper planner, or an app. Whatever it is, try it out and become familiar with how it works. It will make the learning curve less steep when the semester starts.

If you are heading into your final year in a Master’s program:

What are you looking for in your job search? I know, I know, nothing like ruining summer vacation with talking about becoming an adult. The job search may not start as soon as the semester does, but in less than a year, you will need to have made several big decisions about where your career will go. These decisions include what functional area you want to explore, where you want to be located, and what are the must have items for any position? Using this summer to mull over these questions will give you enough time to be sure what you want before the fast and furious job searching season begins.
Prepare for any comprehensive exams or thesis writing you need to do. If your program requires these for graduation, take the summer to organize your materials from previous classes to make the process easier. Get all of your old notebooks out and start marking what is in them and figure out how to easily find the information you need. Provide summaries of major assignments, and familiarize yourself with key topics covered in each course.  

If you are a doctoral student:

Summer months as a doctoral student mainly means writing when it is warmer as opposed to writing when it is colder. However, that does not mean you have to write in the same way in the summer as during the school year. If you are not taking courses, the summer can be a chance to do some reading and writing related to your dissertation topic. It can also be a chance to take any papers from courses and try to prepare them for publication. Writing for your own interests may be different than writing for an assignment, but it allows you to explore and narrow down what you want to study long term. This may also mean meeting with people to talk about your possible topic, as talking about your subject is a good way to refine what you are interested in exploring.
Develop a regular writing practice. The further you progress into your program, the more important writing regularly becomes. It may be for only 20 minutes a day, five days a week, but consistently writing will help you with bigger writing sessions down the road. It is also a good time to determine when you are most productive. Some people like to wake up and get writing first thing, while others do better writing later at night. The important part is to pick what works best for you and write. Sometimes those 20 minutes can turn into an hour, and others you will barely squeak out the time. Just be consistent, and you will be amazed at how productive you can be. 

Regardless of what type of graduate student you are, summer can and should be a time to recharge and refocus. Make sure to take the time to connect with those around you and yourself. Combining that with some of these tips will have you ready to hit the ground running in the fall, and still leave time to hop in the water plug, just for old time sake. 


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