As finals season descends on the 40 Acres, many students are looking forward to their last final and the freedom to forget the material they crammed into their minds the night before. However, students shouldn’t let their hard work go to waste over the coming summer months.
Allowing the mind to go unchallenged for months at a time can lead to learning loss and leave students unprepared to begin school again in the fall. Longhorns should find ways to stimulate their brains over the summer and retain their learning.
This phenomena of “summer learning loss” has been studied since the early 20th century. Though scholars are conflicted over how much learning loss affects students, many statistical studies show there is a decline in student performance between the end of a school year and the next year after the summer break.
Although students can quickly relearn skills, having to relearn puts students behind at the beginning of a semester when professors expect students to pick up where they left off. This situation is not only stressful at the beginning of the semester but throughout the course. When students start behind, it can be hard to ever catch up.
Some classes at UT assume no prior knowledge, but many courses do have prerequisites and expect students to recall concepts from previous classes. At some point, between language classes, math sequences and major-specific coursework, every UT student is in a class that requires memory of prior concepts. Studies show students lose a month of learning over the summer.
Fortunately, preventing learning loss does not have to be time-consuming or boring. Students don’t have to feel the need to practice skills for hours or skip out on fun summer activities instead of studying. Doing simple things to engage the brain over the summer will keep students college-ready.
The most straightforward way for students to keep up skills is to read. Recreational reading can be a tool to prevent summer learning loss. Reading expands your vocabulary, inspires critical thinking, and introduces you to new concepts, which can assist in the classroom. To keep up these skills, find a book you’re genuinely interested in and spend a few minutes a day enjoying the story. This exercise is even more helpful when the subject matter is relevant to your future classwork.
For topics such as foreign language and math, which are not normally subjects of books, it is necessary to do skill-specific work. This may mean spending a few minutes a day actually doing exercises to avoid forgetting vocabulary and concepts. Doing exercises isn’t fun in the short term, but in order to make good grades, student routinely sacrifice some time to make good grades.
Take steps to prevent summer learning loss and this time next semester, you’ll be glad you started school prepared to learn new information, not held back by relearning old concepts. This summer, read and exercise your brain a few minutes each day to start the fall semester off right. Remember, summer 2018 is temporary, GPA is forever.
Freeman is a international relations and global studies junior from Cedar Park.