7 Ways to Build on Your Time at Summer School (All Year Round)
Going to a summer school can feel like going on holiday. For a couple of weeks, you’re surrounded by new friends, you’re doing exciting activities, you’re studying subjects you might never have encountered before and gaining new perspectives on academic work. Then you come home, and normal life resumes. But your time at summer school doesn’t – and shouldn’t – exist in a vacuum.
Think about it a little bit like studying a language, or a musical instrument. To make what you’ve learned really stick with you, you need to carry out practising it and making the most of it. If being at a summer school has left you fizzing with excitement about new hobbies, new friends and new avenues of study, don’t waste it – try these actions to build on your time at summer school and make new habits stick.
1. Take online courses
One of the best things about a summer school is the chance to study new subjects that you might never have encountered before, whether that’s how to create your own films, how to build a robot or how to write your own video game. Alternatively, even if you’re taking conventional subjects such as history, geography or physics, you’ll have studied them from a new and different perspective. It might feel that when you return to school, you’ll have to focus on the same old things as ever, but that’s far from being the case.
As well as exploring new avenues within the context of your school, there are other ways you can supplement your education. For instance, consider using online resources to learn more about the subjects that interest you. Students at Oxford Royale Academy get a free pass to access one of our online courses, so if you’ve been studying with us, make the most of it! Perhaps you want to build on what you’ve been studying to date – for instance, students of Experimental Psychology might want to try out a different online psychology course, while students of Oxford’s Art and Architecture might enjoy Methodologies in Art History. Alternatively, you might enjoy trying out a brand new course, completely unrelated to anything you’ve studied before, such as Victorian Classicism, Russian Language and Literature or The Anglo-Saxons.
Even if a full-length online course is a bit much for you on top of your studies at school, you might want to consider other online study options, such as watching TED talks, trying out short educational videos on YouTube, or resolving to read an article a day from your preferred news website to build on your knowledge of current affairs.
2. Carry out any recommended actions from the course or from your report
A good summer school course will give you some recommended actions for the future, whether these are generic to all participants on the course (such as a recommended post-course reading list) or specific to you (such as recommendations that your teacher might make in your end-of-course report).
Summer schools don’t just provide these things for the fun of it; they provide them because they think you’ll benefit from carrying them out. You might have specific suggestions such as reworking a poem from your creative writing class to enter a competition, or checking out the work of a particular historian who your teacher thinks might interest you. Or they might be more behaviour-based suggestions, such as trying to speak up more in class, or even just having more confidence in your ideas. If there are specific points of feedback on your essays, this article on how to action essay feedback may help.
Sometimes it can be hard taking summer school feedback home with you. Take the example of speaking up in class: it can seem easy when you’re in a smaller summer school class, surrounded by people from all over the world who you might never see again. It’s a lot harder when back in your normal, larger class at school, knowing that if you say something stupid, you’ll have to hang out with these people for several more years. But giving it a go is undoubtedly going to be worth it; your teacher wouldn’t have made the suggestion unless they thought it would really help your studies.
3. Do some follow-up reading
Even if your summer school teacher doesn’t recommend a reading list, there’s no reason not to do some follow-up reading independently, especially if you have access to a good library so you don’t need to pay hefty amounts for a stack of books.
One of the best habits to get into as a student is to begin exploring your own interests and carrying out research in whatever direction they take you, rather than relying on direction from a teacher. It’s a vital skill once you get to the point where you need to choose your own essay titles and study direction (such as if you’re doing coursework at school). Beyond this, it makes studying a lot more fun and rewarding if you’re following your interests rather than merely doing what you’ve been told. Try googling the most interesting features of your summer school course and see what comes up. If you do have a library you can go to, helping you find appropriate books based on your interests and level of understanding of the topic is exactly the sort of thing a librarian would be thrilled to help you with.
Still not sure where to start? For non-fiction, you might want to try our list of 20 books to enhance your understanding of your chosen subject. Alternatively, if you love classic literature but you feel like you’ve read all of the obvious options, our list of great obscure books paired with classics you know and love should give you plenty of inspiration.
4. Seek opportunities to use the skills you’ve acquired
Hopefully your summer school will have equipped you with some valuable skills for the future. That might be public speaking, writing a strong essay, graphic design, website design, sketching or countless other things. The thing about many of these skills – as we discussed at the start of this article – is that they’re “use it or lose it”; the only way you’ll stay sharp in them is with practice.
When you already have a busy schedule of schoolwork to do, finding extra time to practise skills like these can be tricky. You might think the only way to avoid forgetting is to come back to the summer school next year to get your knowledge topped up (which is always an option). But an alternative is to see where you can integrate your knowledge into your daily life and practise your skills that way instead.
If you’ve been learning public speaking, how about volunteering to give a presentation in class rather than trying to avoid being chosen? If you want to practise sketching, how about illustrating a poster for your Biology class with your own sketches of the organisms you’re discussing? If you have to do a coursework project, but the medium isn’t specified, creating a website or even a short computer game to make your point could be highly effective – giving you a chance to practise your skills while impressing your teachers. Alternatively, you might be able to integrate your new skills with your existing hobbies, such as designing a website for your band or producing a logo and promotional booklet for your choir.
5. Keep in touch with friends
Building on your time at summer school isn’t just about your academic work or the skills you’ve learned; after all, attending a summer school is about so much more than just the academic side of things. One of the best things about going to a summer school is making new friends from all around the world, people who you might never otherwise have had a chance to meet. Once upon a time, if you lived in the USA and made a friend from Indonesia, you might have to rely upon very slow and unreliable international postal systems to stay in touch, but that’s a thing of the past. With the internet, especially social media, there’s no reason to lose touch.
All the same, it can be very easy to do so when you get home and real life resumes. It’s worth making a commitment, not just to your new friends but to yourself, that you’ll do your utmost to stay in contact. What began as a two-week friendship at a summer school can be the grounds for a lifelong connection if you make the effort to maintain it. In the past, we’ve written about ways that you can stay in touch with school friends when you go to university – you might find some of the same ideas useful in staying in touch with friends from summer school long after you’ve left.
6. Carry on with new hobbies
Alongside learning new things in the classroom, a summer school is a great opportunity to try out new hobbies outside the classroom. At Oxford Royale Academy, some of our most popular activities relate to hobbies that our students can explore further for themselves when they get home, such as doing their own tie-dye, learning about exotic animals, and assorted different sports depending on the location of their course, including archery, real tennis and punting.
If you tried out a hobby that you loved at summer school, why not keep it up when you get home? Your school might already have a club or society for the hobby you’re interested in, and if it doesn’t, start one! Aside from giving you the opportunity to take part in your hobby with like-minded people, having something like “Founder, School Archery Club” on your school record can look quite impressive for university applications. Your friends at home might also enjoy taking part in the new activity that you’ve discovered you enjoy. Alternatively, there may be local clubs or societies – not affiliated with your school – that you could get involved in.
7. Keep up your summer school attitude to learning
How is a summer school different from a regular school? The answer – other than the obvious about it happening during the summer – is that the goals of a summer school are different. Your regular school aims to teach you a specific curriculum to the highest possible standard, so that you can develop the knowledge and skills you’ll need in adult life, and so you can demonstrate these in an assessment in the form of exams, for the sake of proving this to future universities and employers. There are secondary aims too, such as instilling a love of learning and ensuring you enjoy yourself, but they aren’t the focus – and sometimes you will have to knuckle down and revise for your exams, no matter what that does to your love of learning or level of enjoyment.
At a summer school, it’s different; there are no exams, and the curriculum has been designed with the specific purpose of teaching you something interesting while still ensuring you enjoy yourself and your love of learning is nurtured. You’re there to have fun as much as anything else; you should leave informed about and inspired by your choice of subject. The thought of going into a library and doing research on the things that interest you, as we’ve suggested above, should sound like fun, not like a chore.
A challenge – but a worthwhile one – is to try to take the attitude to learning that a summer school gives you, and keep it up through your regular education. It’s hard work because, as we’ve noted, it’s not easy to be enthusiastic in your love of learning when you’re trying to memorise physics equations for a midterm exam. But if you can keep a little bit of that spirit going – for instance, by following the advice in this article – it can make your schoolwork feel like working towards an exciting goal of greater understanding, and not just a hard slog towards a decent grade on an exam.
Image credits: books. All other photos were taken on Oxford Royale Academy summer school courses.