How to Stay Smart and Not Turn into an Idiot This Summer

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Summer means heat, lazy days of lying in bed and swimming at the lake, but it also means your brain will melt into mush as you forget basic Algebraic formulas or each lobe of the brain you struggled to learn. What does Maxwell’s Demon mean again? Before letting all that knowledge fly out the proverbial window, take this summer to retain that knowledge, but add onto it as you head into the fall semester. Soon you’ll be gearing up back up for school, but will you be ready?

1. Stay Cool For The Summer in the Classroom

I know what you’re thinking–you just finished orgo I and II, why the hell would you want to ruin three months of freedom from the tiny classroom seats to take summer courses? Though synonymous with torture techniques, summer classes aren’t meant to prolong the pain of writing papers and studying for tests. Most universities and colleges offer short online classes, providing flexible times and due dates for assignments. Because of the small class sizes, you get more face time with your professors. “I decided to take summer classes to lessen the burden of more classes in the fall and spring [and] to also keep me in the habit of critically thinking and learning new material,” Purdue senior Holly Maize said.

2. Hop on the Reading Rainbow

It’s the night before your English final, and your professor said the essays include questions about the books you were supposed to read. Problem is you didn’t read them, but not because you were lazy–you just didn’t have time to read a 1,000 page book on the introspection of literature. Be smart, get ahead and read a couple of books for fall classes while you soak up that Vitamin D. Reading keeps the brain’s gears moving for solving mathematical equations or, in this case, answering long English essays. So while you may never have the Blake Lively-esque summer bod, your brain will be in its best shape for the fall.

3. Go for a Coffee Run

Internships bridge the gap between learning skills in class to living and working in the real world. Whether you’re an intern for a radio station or a secretary for an accountant, being an intern allows students to continually practice what they’ve learned in and out of the classroom. “I am so glad I have internships this summer because I’m learning a lot about social media and effective writing every day. Because I have two part-time internships and write articles for a website, this summer has been pretty challenging. However, [it’s] very thrilling to work with professionals and write for real clients,” University of Wisconsin-Madison junior Yujung Son said. Plus, internships are everywhere. Students travel to the other side of the world just for an internship, so having one can be a career- and culture-enriching experience.

4. Travel to Infinity and Beyond

London, Paris or Tokyo? Try taking summer classes abroad in almost any city of your choosing. Remember when I said taking summer classes would be beneficial? “I decided to study abroad to meet people who didn’t think the same way as my friends, family, colleagues or professors. I wanted to see and experience other parts of the world, and I knew that would give me a better understanding of myself as well as the way we function globally,” UW-Madison alumna Britany Estrada said. Learn Italian in a real Italian classroom in Rome. Study outside in a French café. Stroll around London. Whatever you do, you’ll make some new friends at the international level while catching up on those credits you needed for your history degree.

5. The Devil Wears Prada, But You Don’t Have To

Don’t worry about becoming internet famous for having the best fitness or fashion blog over the summer. Writing stimulates cognitive thinking and even helps you practice using new vocab words you picked up in a classic Jane Austen novel. Whether writing about fashion, fitness, healthy eating or even journaling, you’ll be preparing yourself for a paper you’ll inevitably write in biology come fall. If you’re really feeling ambitious, check out your college’s writing center. Writing centers offer a variety of workshops on grammar and paper structure, or on how you can bring out your inner voice.

6. “Hello…It’s Me”

Once you completed your last final in May, the last thing you want to think about is talking to your professors during your tropical July vaycay. But saying “Sayonara!” to your professors won’t help keep your mind sharp as a tack. Besides asking professors how you should prepare for next semester, or how to boost your GPA, let your professor use his networking abilities and connections to open the door for internships and jobs. One of your engineering professors may be buddies with a manager at 3M and could help you get that bus ticket to their headquarters in Minnesota. Your professors won’t bite your head off–they want to help you. So email your old pals this summer and see how they’ve been.

7. Hustle for the Brain Muscle

Maybe you didn’t have enough time during the school year to head to the gym every now and then, but now you have no excuses. Being physically active prevents your muscles and brain from turning into useless flab. Physical activity even helps reduce stress and increases the ability to focus more on writing short answer questions on your history final. Being active doesn’t mean you have to spend the entire summer trying to become a professional fitness pro like Julian Michaels, but you could do a couple of her workouts to break a sweat. “Lifting is a fun way to find health that anyone can do, and health brings a whole plethora of good qualities to life,” UW-Madison junior Katelyn Hellenbrand said.

8. “And so me put in work, work, work, work”

This may not be as glamorous as that graphic design internship you want at Epic, but getting a job keeps you busy while making money magically appear in your bank account. Though the plan for snagging an internship fell through, contact your old boss or find a new job on campus. If you don’t want work as a cafeteria soup scooper, there are numerous restaurants and retail stores that hire intelligent students like yourself too. Making bank over the summer at even the crappiest of jobs still prepares you for the future too. Being a server helps you learn how to interact with customers on a daily basis and teaches you to literally think on your feet when something goes wrong. Maybe not the best option to you, but a pretty good option to stay active and roll in the dough.

9. Head to Hobby Lobby

Strum the strings on a new guitar, learn to play the piano or teach yourself how to draw or paint. The whole summer is your oyster. Teach yourself how to knit a scarf  to stay warm during the winter months or better your cooking skills so you don’t have to always eat cold-cut sandwiches or cereal for dinner. You can even make working out a hobby. “I love working out for the rush of good energy I get and for the [good] health I believe it brings to my life. Lifting has [helped me make] friends and is a great way for me to connect with my faith,” Hellenbrand said. Learning a new skill keeps you from being stuck on the couch all day bored out of your mind, and you may even thank yourself in the fall for learning Russian when you decide to study abroad in Moscow.

10. Get LinkedIn and Tweet About It

Create a LinkedIn accounts, update your Facebook status and check your blog even more than you already do. Increasing your social media presence this summer has more benefits than just seeing what everyone else is up to. For once, it’s okay to glue your nose to a screen for a few minutes of every day. Having a professional social media presence is a must have, especially if you’re entering the journalism field or marketing. Plus, get cool social media stars and entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg to follow you back when you start gaining followers. Post a couple cool Instagram pictures and tweet inspirational quotes in 140 characters or less and you’ll be a shoo in to Zuckerberg’s social circle.

Anne is a sophomore studying journalism and history at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A native Wisconsinite, Anne loves all things Wisconsin including sporting events, the outdoors and its summer concerts.

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