Dealing With Summer Assignments

As I mentioned yesterday, it is officially summer where I live in the United States.  For me, that means lots of swimming, hanging out with friends, working, writing, reading, and…

Doing summer assignments.

Now I know some of you may not know what those are, so I’ll explain.  When students sign up for a class they plan to take in the following school year, the teacher/ professor may provide a summer assignment.  For my teachers, the summer assignment was meant to cover curriculum we lacked enough time for in the school year.  These are usually introductory lessons on the subject, with homework for practice on the lesson.  It is common for summer assignments to be short- maybe two or three pages- but they can also be difficult to complete.  Many summer assignments can be quite involved, requiring research papers or analyses of the lessons you covered.  

I am in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at my school, so I have a few summer assignments.  One for Mathematics HL and another for Film.  While the Math doesn’t seem too complicated, I also have to write a report on the contents of the chapters in the book I was required to read.  For Film, I have to choose and watch four movies from a list, writing a journal and analysis for each, then choosing one for an in-depth theme analysis.  

At first blush, it seems like a lot, but I find myself lucky.  Some of the AP students I know have six summer assignments- with the same workload.  And I could sit here and complain, but that doesn’t get my assignment done.  I’m sure many of you can relate to the struggle of summer assignments, so I wanted to share my method of dealing with them today!


Step 1: Make a Schedule

This step absolutely must be the FIRST thing you do when you have all of your summer assignments together!  You need to read the instructions of each thoroughly, then make a schedule for when you should have each assignment completed.  When I did this, I included both of my summer assignments on the same days, allotting so much time each day for each one.  The other thing I made sure to do was leave a few days blank; just one or two every two weeks.  This meant that I had free days to do summer things, like dedicate a day to shopping with friends or going to an amusement park.  If you have a planned family vacation, I recommend planning that time with a summer assignment that you may actually enjoy.  If you have any that just require reading, I would go with those.  You can read your assigned book on the plane, by the beach, etc.


Step 2: Use Any Resources Offered To You

The point of the summer assignment is that you are familiarizing yourself with the course material so you don’t end up floundering the first semester.  If a topic is particularly difficult for you to understand, use your resources! A lot of assignments include links to helpful websites where you can learn a bit more about the topic.  For mathematics, I recommend Khan Academy.  It’s free, and videos on any math topic you can imagine are easily accessible and simple to understand.  Youtube is also a fantastic resource for other subjects; John Green’s channel Crash Course has a pretty good spread of history, psychology, and the sciences.  Plus, he makes everything funny, so it’s a bit more bearable.


Step 3: Don’t Kill Your Summer

I think this step is the hardest, because it almost feels like you can’t help it.  With so many assignments, I think a lot of people work hard for the first month then just give up.  They waste their free time by overworking themselves.  This is one of the few times I will say you should work smarter, not harder.  You are going to be challenging yourself all year! Schedule some time for yourself, to de-stress from last year and prepare for this year.  Hang out with friends and family, go shopping, have fun! Just make sure you are balancing work with fun, and taking advantage of that awkward, ‘I’m not doing anything today’ time.  Your summer assignments are not made to torture you! They’re meant to keep your mind sharp and cover the key topics of your future course.  Use them to your advantage, not your detriment.

Best of luck on your assignments,

Brainiac Blonde

How To Effectively Beautify Notes

Notes are always a huge topic of interest in the studying community.  We go on Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram and see all these colorful, neat, goddess-like notes that people write, and we try to mimic that.  If you are anything like me, and you have tried to write notes like these… You know it doesn’t end well.

And maybe that’s for the best.

Now, I love looking at those ravishing pages as much as anyone else, but over time, I’ve realized that that is just not me.  I am a messy thinker.  I know I am actually learning when my papers are scattered, when there are arrows pointing every which way, and when there are side-thoughts next to almost every bullet point.  I write fast and furious, because that is how my brain works with my hand.  I used to think this was terrible, that because my notes weren’t color-coordinated and lined up all perfect, I was without.  And I made the mistake of trying to change my habits.

For two months, all of my notes were written in different colors and in pen.  Not only did it take forever (I was spending an extra hour on each subject), but I was not seeing any improvement in what really matters: my understanding.  Writing my vocab in pink and dates in purple did not help me remember them anymore than it had when I was writing in plain old pencil.  I was also getting frustrated with how many little mistakes I was making in pen that I couldn’t erase.  Overall, it was just a super stressful experience.

But it wasn’t all a loss.  I was paying more attention to what I was writing, being more concise, and making the whole page a lot neater and easier to read for later.  When I switched back to my pencil, I carried these habits with me. And so far, it has been beneficial to me.  My memory is quicker, I’m retaining more info… It’s pretty great.

Now, let’s get this clear: I am NOT trying to say that those goddess notes are not good notes!  Those are the notes we all aspire to, and I commend those who are able to make their thoughts look that beautiful and concise on paper.  However, not everyone can do that, and you shouldn’t bash yourself for that! Your notes are for you to learn, not showcase!  Write how you want to.  Also, don’t do what I did and drown your notes in color.  Write key words in color, or highlight them, but don’t write an entire page in neon green gel pen.  It really does not help, believe me…

But seriously, guys.  Try some new methods, get some new notebooks, and get started.  Do what makes sense to you, because these notes are for you. If you are a beautiful note-taker… Hats off to y’all, you’re my daily inspiration. Keep doing you!

And for those of you like me, you rock too.  Keep taking notes and learning and enjoying what you are writing down.  That’s what really makes a winning notebook!

See you!

Brainiac Blonde