Last summer, I had to read two novels, note seven textbook chapters, write one essay, analyze two short stories, complete three packets on French culture, and solve countless math problems. A workload like that certainly put a damper on the stress-free vacation I had envisioned.

I often found myself asking why I had to suffer through all of this work. Teachers, I convinced myself, were unaware that the purpose of summer was to let students unwind. As I trudged through my assignments, however, I began to realize that there was, in fact, value in the assignments. Quite simply, they ensured that I entered the next year with some degree of preparedness and allowed the class to jump right into new content. Without a bit of academic work, I likely would have lost everything I had learned the year before in a sea of Netflix.

Everyone completes summer assignments at their own pace. There are a few overachievers with the motivation to get to work the day after school lets out. Some people pace themselves, working a bit each day throughout the summer. But most, it seems, leave the work until the very end of August, gobbling up any moment of free time in an attempt to complete that novel before the first day of school arrives. This experience is never fun, but there are plenty of ways to ensure that the best time of the year isn’t lost to schoolwork:

1. Just do it. Getting started is the hardest part of the whole process. Once you’ve read the first page of a novel, the rest will come much more easily. Just remember: the earlier you begin, the earlier you can finish.

2. One class at a time. Focusing on a single assignment at once not only makes work manageable, but allows you to concentrate entirely on that content to ensure that you thoroughly understand it. Dividing up work by class and breaking it up into smaller chunks makes it easier to conquer.

3. Schedule, schedule, schedule. The lack of due dates in summer totally rocks, but setting mini schedules for yourself can be helpful. Create deadlines for each class’s work and hold yourself to them. Reward yourself, too! Finishing that book is a great excuse to go out for ice cream (as if you needed an excuse to go out for ice cream).

4. Yearn to learn. Much of the time, summer homework isn’t graded. If you approach it with the goal of learning new information rather than finishing it quickly, you’ll be better off in the long run. Teaching yourself a concept when you actually have free time will save you time when the test comes around. Plus, you might actually have some idea of what the teacher is talking about when you get to class.

5. Review. If you finish a book in the middle of July, it can be extremely valuable to take some time right before school starts to revisit it. Read the SparkNotes or Wikipedia entries, watch the movie, talk about it with a friend–anything that will put it back in your mind. Starting assignments in the first week of summer can cause them to be forgotten later on, so having a quick look at them come September can be a good refresher.

Summer homework is not fun. But that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your vacation! Schedule your time around having fun with friends, doing things that interest you, and bettering yourself as a person. Complete your schoolwork when your stress levels are low and you can take the time to really focus on getting something out of it. Approaching it with the right mindset will help you finish faster and perhaps even learn something. When the summer finally comes to a close, you can head off to school relaxed and ready to learn.

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