A Summer School Survival Guide

Jan 07, 2019

A Summer School Survival Guide

Ahh summer, that glorious time of sun, sand and… study? Yup, it’s early January 2019, and you’re stuck in summer school. There are loads of reasons people take summer school – finishing prerequisites for next years courses, catching up on failed classes or getting a leg up on your degree. Whatever your reason, you’re gonna need to figure out how to keep up in class, stay healthy, and most importantly – not forget to have a summer! Luckily, we’ve got the ultimate survival guide right here.

When you start summer school, it’s usually your third semester in a row. After the burnout from the regular year, you’ve got to turn around and get right back into the books. That’s tough – and that’s why you’ve got to take care of yourself. Keeping healthy means eating well, exercising a few times a week, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. This keeps your body fresh and your brain function normal. 

Eat Well

Good food to eat in summer is lean, so grab fruits and light vegetables, fish, salads and wraps and leave heavy vegetables, meats, dairy and baked goods. If you get weighed down and sluggish, you’ll struggle on hot days.


You don’t necessarily need to go hard on the exercise front, but at least getting out 3-4 times a week for light exercise like a run or a cycle helps you stay energetic, focussed and emotionally satisfied. Also, it’s summer – when socialising often means exercise anyway. Throwing the frisbee around, playing beach sports, climbing hills, going for swims – that all counts!

Get plenty of rest

Sleep is maybe the most important of all. The days are long, the courses are jam-packed, and there’s loads more to do as well – you’re going to be having some big days. Big days mean big nights – in bed. Sleeping long and regular hours will allow you to jam pack your days consistently without getting burnt out or sacrificing any part of your summer lifestyle.

Health also means how you feel, at a mental and emotional level. In summer, a lot of your friends will be doing a lot of nothing, and while you’re in school they could be down at the beach – avoid the FOMO by allowing yourself to enjoy summer too. Take advantage of sunny days and warm nights instead of cooping yourself up inside law school all day.

Taking more time out won’t necessarily affect your study outcomes. When you’re less stressed, you study much more efficiently, so you need less time for the same outcomes. In fact, stress and poor health have a huge impact on your brain’s ability to retain information, so it’s in your best interest to look after number one first.

Even when you’re really bogged down with work, you can do little things like walking or biking to university to enjoy a little bit of fresh air and sun while sticking to your schedule. Plus, summer days are long in New Zealand, so you’ll usually be able to get down to the beach or lake after university too. You might not always feel like it, but it’s worth making the effort, so you don’t feel like you’re wasting your summer. It’ll keep your mind state positive.

Don’t overcommit yourself

Summer classes often require focussed attention because they fit more content into a shorter space of time. Coming from NCEA, or even from regular university classes, can be a big adjustment. The best way around this is not to overload your plate – take only one or two classes in summer school to make sure you won’t be overworked. And there’s no substitute for study, so implement a study plan from day one to make sure you spend a little time every day keeping up.

The plan keeps you from getting surprised – when courses are more condensed, it is a lot more impactful if you forget about an assignment or test until the last minute. You might get away with it in the regular semester, but a shorter term time means less room for error. That also applies to skipping classes – don’t do it! Skipping one class is like skipping multiple classes in a normal semester – it’s not worth it.

Summer essentials

Being at university in summer has its own peculiar practical quirks as well – it might sound obvious, but it’s going to be hot! You’ll need summer essentials like a water bottle and sunblock, because getting sunburnt or dehydrated can derail your productivity. At the same time, universities are known for cranking the air conditioning in the summer, so bring a light jacket to make sure you aren’t sitting there shivering in class.

Branch out and make new friends

During the regular school year, you’ve probably got your group of friends in your classes that you hang out with. They might not be there in summer school, and it can be tempting to take a get-in-get-out approach to classes and not meet anyone new. It’s worth introducing yourself to some of your classmates though, and there are several reasons why.

Any burden is better shared, and if all your friends are doing other things, why not make some more who are sharing your summer school experience? The camaraderie will help you feel better about your predicament and make you look forward to coming to university each day. You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so try to make it a place with characters to colour your days.

Plus, it pays to share brains and resources. Having study pals will help everyone study more effectively – different students have different strengths and weaknesses. It can even help you save money if you share the costs of things like printing and textbooks. You don’t need a bachelor of commerce to figure that one out.

Surviving summer school is really about figuring out the right balance between fun and work. It’s tricky since courses are more condensed, but there’s also more fun stuff going on. You’ve got longer days to fit it all in, but then you don’t want to get burned out. The best advice I can give is to sleep a lot! And wear sunblock. Even if you’re just studying by the window. Good luck!


By Jack Buckley, Wellington, New Zealand. 


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