Summertime for Graduate Students: Should I be Idle?

Summertime can be a variety of things to different people. It can be a time of relaxation, a time to travel, a time to work, or a time to learn. However for graduate students, summer can be a battle of staying productive versus enjoying a mental vacation. Students are forced to ask themselves; do I take the whole summer off? Or do spend the entire season working? While there’s no definitive answer, one thing I learned from my academic advisor while attending Morehouse College, is that a student’s mind should never stay idle. As a result, I believe it’s important for graduate students to find a balance between work and relaxation during the summer, as they do during the school year.

One thing students can do to ensure their summer will be productive is to make of list of goals and work to stick to them to the best of their ability. Their goals could include things such as spending time with loved ones, taking a vacation, studying, or completing work on a research project. After identifying their goals, next, a student should consider applying for a summer job. An effective way to stay productive during the summer is to teach a course within their field of study. Being on campus for a portion of the summer can help a student stay motivated, as well as remain focused on completing his or her own work. Speaking from experience, managing time for both teaching (or working) and studying can be difficult. This past summer session, I taught a math course for several weeks while studying for my own qualifying exams. However, I effectively managed my time by creating a schedule that outlined deadlines to complete my goals on a weekly basis. Sticking to a summer schedule can help students stay organized and achieve their goals if they are committed to putting in the necessary effort.

When the summer begins to come to close and you see new students start arriving on campus for the first time, this is a good moment for reflection. It is an opportunity to reflect on not only what one has learned or accomplished during the summer, but also what one learned in their first year of graduate school. The second year can be a nerve-wracking, but with hard work it can be better than the previous year. Learn from mistakes made in the past, whether it was not asking for help when it was needed or having poor study habits. Learning from these mistakes and making positive changes can lead to a much better second year. Lastly, make sure to care of yourself properly and not push yourself too hard. It’s good to have someone to go to for advice or address any concerns or fears, be it your advisor, family member, or older grad student. As one learns to not be idle during the entire summer, it’s also important to not be idle during the school year.