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4 Things You Can Do Now to Get a 4.0 This Fall


Fall semester is quickly approaching, which means you’re probably thinking about the next part of your life and all of the new experiences lined up for you: living with a roommate, sharing a bathroom with strangers, meeting guys at parties and joining cool clubs. Oh yeah, and there’s also, um, college classes, aka the reason you (or your parents) are paying a truckload of money to be in college in the first place.

You may have gotten away with slacking off once in a while in high school, but college classes are different —for example, if you fail a class, you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars in tuition and books to retake it. So it’s not a bad idea to use your summer downtime to prepare for college academics. Here are some educational alternatives to things you’re probably doing this summer anyway.

1. Do some heavy reading

Take a break from the latest breezy bestseller and pick up something with a little more weight. (If you don’t want your thighs to get sweaty as you read on the beach, feel free to take “weight” metaphorically!) Many college professors expect their students to come in with a literary background, so use this time to fill in your reading gaps. According to Reading Lists for College-Bound Students by Doug Estell, Michele L. Satchwell and Patricia S. Wright, the 10 most commonly recommend authors for incoming college students are the following:

  • William Shakespeare
  • William Faulkner
  • Charles Dickens
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Jane Austen
  • Homer
  • Mark Twain
  • Sophocles
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald

Not only will reading the classics introduce you to new words and new perspectives, it can help you save time in the fall. If you’re not sure what classes you’re taking in the fall, you might be able to narrow down your options now. Get into the habit of reading short works by the great writers, and you’ll get a sense of what classes you’d be most successful in during the fall. Hated the macho manliness of that Ernest Hemingway novella but thought the imagery in those feminist lectures by Virginia Woolf was more beautiful than the ocean? Now you’ll know you’re more likely to excel in Modern Female Writers than in 20th Century American Lit when you’re deciding how to fulfill your English credit.

Keep track of what you read and what you thought of each book. This will help you build a literary foundation that will help you appreciate allusions in books you’ll read all throughout your college career.

If you know which classes you’re likely to take in the fall, see if you can find out which books will be on the syllabus. Try searching the class on your school’s website or emailing the professor saying you’d like an idea of what literature the class will cover.

“Getting a head start on your academic reading during the summer is a great way to start the school year strong,” says Brigid, a senior studying history and religion at the University of Rochester. “Take notes, either on paper or electronically, as you go—it may feel like a slow way to proceed, but you’ll retain more info and you’ll have the notes to look back on when the school year starts.”

Chances are, once track practice and theater rehearsals start up, you won’t want to spend much quality time with Homer and Dante, and you’ll be grateful for those notes.

2. Watch educational videos

Sometimes the humidity makes going to the beach unbearable and you just want to sit in an air-conditioned room and spend the afternoon watching shows on Netflix or YouTube. We recommend taking a break from Orange Is the New Black season two and checking out John and Hank Green’s Crash Course videos (You probably know John Green as the author of The Fault In Our Stars). Crash Course is a series of funny and educational videos covering history, chemistry, biology, literature and ecology.

Many people complain about history classes because they don’t like having to remember a lot of dates and people. In college you may have to do this, but you’re more likely to be asked to do a lot of reading and analyze events from the past. Both memorizing small details and thinking critically about historical events can be easier if you have a general context of the time period you’re dealing with.  Crash Course History is a great way to get a overview of history that will help contextualize the more specific areas you study.

If you’re thinking about majoring in science (or just dreading your lab requirement), check out the videos by John Green’s brother, Hank Green. His Crash Course videos cover science-related topics in an equally funny and engaging way. One of the best things about these videos is the sheer love for science packed in each approximately 10-minute lesson. If you’re dreading your science graduation requirement, these might change your mind.

3. Play Internet games

Everyone likes to waste time playing games on the Internet or their smartphones. Usually the best you can get from hours of game playing is bragging rights for being the first of your friends to reach 2048. What if you could satiate your competitive side and also learn a foreign language?

Whether you want to continue with a language you already know (so those four years of high school Spanish don’t go to waste) or you want to get started on the basics of a new language before taking it in college, we recommend you check out Duolingo. This free site allows you to practice vocabulary and learn grammar at your own pace. It’s set up like a video game with different levels and the opportunity to win Lingots, which is virtual currency that allows you to buy different incentives, including new vocabulary sets.

“Duolingo allows me to learn a language in a fun, engaging way that fits into my busy schedule,” says Patricia, an ASL major at the University of Rochester who is using Duolingo to learn German.

4. Write, write, write

What’s something you can do at any time this summer? Write! We’re not telling you to churn out 10-page thesis essays every week for the rest of the summer (although if that appeals to you, by all means, go for it). Being able to communicate clearly through the written word is imperative for college and beyond, so find ways to practice writing throughout the summer.

Write a letter to your grandma telling her about the books you’ve been reading, start a blog where you write critical analyses of summer blockbusters like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, write a journal entry with a scientific procedure on how to start a summer fling—anything that interests you and motivates you to think about the world and put those thoughts into words. You’ll have to write for almost every class you take in college, so start practicing now and you’ll find writing will be a little less strenuous in the fall.

You might not be able to prepare yourself for the colossal crush you’ll have on the a cappella soloist or your mid-semester realization that the squash team is your passion, but you can use your downtime this summer to prepare for college academics. Try out a new website and take some Mark Twain short stories to the beach—Future Collegiette Scholar You will thank you!

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