With the academic year drawing to an end, you might be wondering: how should I spend the next few months of summer ahead of me? It’s important that you use these months in productive and interesting ways to keep yourself engaged and to continue growing your personal and professional skill set. But what does that look like?
Are you curious about how volunteering or a summer internship could prepare you for your career goals? Are you wondering if you should use your time to prepare for upcoming assessments such as the CASPer Test or the MCAT? We’re going to explore some common, productive ways of spending your summer and their respective benefits.
We’ve got seven ideas on how to best spend your summer. But to avoid overwhelming you with too much information at once, we’re going to split them up between two blog posts. This week’s post discusses…
- Planning for Your Future
- Skills Development
- School Assessment Preparation
Our next blog will cover ways of spending your summer that are more related to professional development. These include…
- Summer Internships
- Research Opportunities
- Starting Your Own Business
Planning for Your Future
This likely won’t take up your entire summer, so you can probably work on planning for your future in tandem with some of the other options in this blog post. This planning can include preparing for upcoming assessments or mapping out the remaining years of your undergraduate degree.
If you choose to spend a part of your summer planning out the next few years of your academic career, we highly recommend you speak to a professional. It can be hard keeping track of all the tasks you need to complete in order to apply to your dream professional school. So consider taking the time to sit with your academic advisor to review the graduation requirements for your current program as well as the criteria for admission into your target professional school.
You can also seek out academic consultants. I Got In offers pre-application planning to not only ensure you’ve got all your prerequisites completed, but also to help you identify relevant extracurriculars that will teach you relevant skills and make you stand out as an applicant. We’re ready to support you through every step of the application process.
Setting concrete goals is crucial to developing a solid plan. A great way of doing so is to establish SMART goals to help you identify exactly what you want to work on this summer and track your progress as you go. SMART stands for:
- Time Bound
When setting SMART goals, avoid vague declarations like “I will map out the next three years of my undergraduate degree.” Other than not being specific enough, it also fails to include any way of measuring your progress or any mention of why this is a relevant goal.
Instead, you might identify your end goal as gaining admission to your dream school. This makes it relevant and also gives you a clear deadline. From here, you need to identify the steps you’ll take to achieve this goal. In this case, your goal might look like this: “I will apply to medical school in three years. Next week, I will speak with my academic advisor to map out the next three years of my undergraduate degree and ensure that I have all of my prerequisites in place. By the end of June, I will have found and started working with an academic consultant to help me identify key extracurricular opportunities that will bolster my application. I will also begin preparing for the MCAT with them.” This goal aligns with the SMART goals structure in the following ways:
- Specific: It identifies exactly what it is you hope to achieve
- Measurable: It includes specific checkpoints by which you can measure progress
- Achievable: This goal is realistic and possible to achieve
- Relevant: It’s related to your career goals
- Time-Bound: There’s a clear deadline
It’s incredibly beneficial to plan your prerequisites, prepare for assessments, and even identify any awards or scholarships you’re eligible to apply for long before their deadlines. Doing so will help you avoid burnout and maintain your wellbeing. It’ll also allow you to set aside some time to do things you enjoy and to find balance between your academic or professional life and your personal life.
School Assessment Preparation
If you already know which professional schools you want to apply to and the assessments you need to complete, you can spend some of your summer preparing for these tests. Exams like the CASPer Test or the MCAT have test dates in the late summer/early autumn. Looking for some assessment prep courses or study resources? Here are some options:
Another great way to prepare for these exams is to find a tutor in your area who has previously written the exam you’re studying for and scored well. With a tutor’s guidance and expertise, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the exam.
I Got In offers one-on-one MCAT tutoring to help you grasp complex concepts, decode questions, and use proven strategies to select correct answers. We also offer CASPer Test preparation to give you the tools you need to confidently tackle each question and respond concisely and effectively. Book a free consultation to speak to our experts.
Whatever avenues you choose to pursue in preparing for your upcoming assessments, it’s important that you develop a study schedule and strong study habits to keep you on track. To develop your schedule, consider how much study time you have between now and the date of your exam. From there, identify exactly what you want to cover in each block of time. Check out our final exam study guide to learn more about how to develop your study schedule.
You also need to make sure that you’re actively engaging with the content you’re studying. Active study methods include…
- Writing practice exams
- Using flashcards
- Explaining content out loud, either to yourself or someone else
Our final exam study guide also includes some helpful tools to ensure you’re engaging with the content in meaningful ways that deepen your understanding.
Planning ahead also allows you to identify what skills you need to improve upon and develop an action plan. For example, you could use your summer to work on your skills by taking some summer courses or skills-based classes such as public speaking, technology related courses (ex: how to use Microsoft suite), or even language classes. These types of skills are crucial for success in a variety of fields, so why not get a head start by developing them this summer?
SMART goals are also a great place to start in identifying which skills you’d like to improve upon and developing an action plan. As we previously mentioned, avoid setting vague goals such as “this summer I will work on public speaking.” This doesn’t identify what steps you’re taking to improve this skill, how you’ll measure your progress, or give you a deadline to work towards.
You can make this goal a little more specific by making it something like this: “In order to improve my public speaking skills before my brother’s wedding at the end of the summer, I will begin attending Toastmasters. I will present a speech on a monthly basis, factoring in the feedback I received the month before.” Here’s how this aligns with the SMART goals structure:
- Specific: Improving your public speaking skills
- Measurable: Your monthly speech will allow you to track your progress
- Achievable: This is a realistic and attainable goal
- Relevant: You have to speak at an upcoming event, making it a relevant skill to work on
- Time Bound: The date of your brother’s wedding gives you a clear deadline
Looking for other avenues of developing your skill sets? Public libraries often host or conduct skills development classes, so be sure to ask your local librarians about them. You can also attend workshops on developing skills such as social media marketing or effective grant writing. Here are a few organizations that offer these workshops:
Setting goals is great but you need to make sure you’re consistently working on them! Here are some resources to help you stick to your goals and track your progress as you go:
- stickK and Way of Life are two apps that help you keep track of your goals.
- If you’re looking for a creative method, Bullet Journaling is a great alternative.
That’s all we’ve got for you today! Keep an eye out for our next post to learn about some other ways to spend your summer.