When I coach students who are preparing for Summer School at Harvard, I often suggest they approach it as if it were a cross-country trip. To ensure a successful and rewarding experience, you have to follow the map; stop regularly to refuel; plan your side trips and excursions; and stay calm when you run into bad weather, traffic, or detours.
1. Map out the entire semester.
Put every due date in your schedule, and note the days before tests and papers. Go old school: write out your weekly assignments on five sheets of paper, then tape them up where you can see them to act as guideposts throughout the semester.
2. Schedule time to schedule.
Spend 30 minutes every Sunday to look at what lies ahead and which activities, assignments, and social outings you have planned. Make a list, prioritize the activities, and put them in your schedule. Lists are useless unless you assign a time to complete the task.
3. Use a block schedule to map out your week.
Divide each day into 90-minute blocks with 15-minute breaks in between. Decide how many blocks you need for each task, and fill in your schedule. Take 15 minutes at the start of each day for revisions and updates. Be flexible—life happens, things take longer than expected, and extra time sightseeing is usually worth it!
4. Set Social Goals.
Successful students make time for friends (old and new), and plan excursions so they stay energized and motivated. Go for a walk on the Charles, watch street performers in the square, go to a new restaurant, watch a Red Sox game with the locals, or take your books to the beach.
This is an intensive journey. You need to check the air pressure in your tires and the fuel in your tank every day.
If you plan your trip well, you’ll reach your destination a little happier and a little wiser.