Making the Most of Summer

by Keri Kirk, SCP/ Section 10 Campus Representative

As clinical psychology graduate students, we spend the academic year juggling many hats. We’re researchers, externs, teaching assistants, and so much more. We dedicate ourselves to becoming experts in providing service to others all while balancing our personal lives and individual obligations. By the start of summer, many of us just want a break!  We deserve and should take that break – whether it’s just one day or one month. After we take that self-imposed recess, the summer can be a wonderful time for productivity and creativity. Here are six things that you can try to make the most of summer and set yourself up for an amazing year.

Set summer goals

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before: specific, measureable, achievable/attainable, realistic, and time-based goals that increase your chances of accomplishing desired outcomes. Setting SMART goals now can make the difference between a productive or non-productive summer. Think about what you neglected during the year or upcoming milestones that are important to your progression through your program. Write down your goals in SMART fashion and review them often.

Make a summer schedule

After you set your summer goals, make a schedule. Account for your summer obligations (job, externship, research) and vacations, then fill in the empty space with blocks of time that you think should be allotted to obtain each goal. You may have goals that require weekly attention. Other goals may take up space on your calendar periodically. As the summer haze sets in, so do Netflix binges, happy hours, social outings with friends we neglected during the year, lazy lounge days…you get the idea. All that is fine if you ensure that you have scheduled productivity time. Although the balance of work and play may be different than it is during the school year, continue to keep an eye on where your time goes. Experiment in the first few weeks to see what balance of work and play is right for you.

Join a writing group

If you don’t have a formal writing group to join, create one! Ask members of your cohort, cohorts above and below yours, as well as doctoral students from other programs and disciplines at your school or neighboring schools. Joining a writing group can be an essential way to increase your network of accountability partners. The idea is to create a group of like-minded individuals who are all striving to increase their writing productivity over the summer. Set ground rules (e.g. no talking during writing periods, no cell phone or internet use for specified time, etc), set goals, decide on a convenient meeting place and time, and then watch the magic happen!

Catch up on new pubs in your respective areas of focus

Use the summer down time to catch up on new and innovative articles in your area of interest or beyond. Set the date range in your search engine to articles published in 2016 to 2017. Refine your search with desired key words and download away! Use this low-pressure time to genuinely absorb what you’re reading. There are so many fascinating things happening in our field and summer is the perfect time to explore.

Connect with your mentors

Summer is also the perfect time to connect with your mentors. Many of them are heading into the same less hectic time that you are. Use your meeting as a time to share your summer goals and get their feedback on your progress thus far. Ask about summer opportunities or their upcoming research. If you have time available, offer to assist them with a pending project (but ensure to give your time parameters if they are open to you helping).


Lastly, making the most of summer has as much to do with the time that you devote to yourself as it does with the time that you devote to your scholarly work. Division 12 (10) will be posting more on self-care in the coming months. For now, try these ten, budget-friendly items below to recharge and re-ignite your grad student soul in these hot months!

  • Take a weekend stay-cation
  • Go to a free summer festival
  • Do something arts-y and crafts-y (check Pinterest for ideas)
  • Redecorate or rearrange your living space
  • Go see your favorite music artists in concert
  • Reconnect with your non-grad school friend or do non-academic things with grad school friends
  • Practice yoga and gratitude in the morning
  • Explore your neighborhood on a walk or run
  • Create a scavenger hunt list using city landmarks for you and your friends, then do it!
  • Take a day trip or a road trip to somewhere new