College and University Blog

The Summer Slide: Don’t Forget Everything You Learned all Year

The sun is blazing and the temperature is rising: summer’s here! Summer vacation provides a welcome break for most young people, and the thought of going on vacation and hitting the pool is almost as exciting as the ability to sleep late every day and take a break from homework, but being away from the classroom for an extended period of time can drastically reduce the amount of knowledge you retain.

Most Americans have the belief that summer is supposed to be the time when kids can relax and take a break from it all, but research shows that students reportedly forget approximately two months worth— or twenty-two percent— of the information they learned during the school year. Most parents spend so much time worrying about taking trips and filling idle hours that they tend to forget about learning.

The Summer Slide: Are You a Victim?

Among educators, the process of forgetting things during the summer is referred to as “the summer slide,” and it’s relatively common. According to the National Summer Learning Association, an independent organization located at Johns Hopkins University which provides summer learning to children, all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. In fact, research spanning over the course of 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.

The nation’s oldest and largest children’s literacy organization, Reading Is Fundamental, believes there is no better time than summer to begin helping children bridge the gap in learning between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next one. “Motivating children to read throughout the year is essential to building lifelong readers, and reading is the doorway to all other learning,” says Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF.

If you’re a college student, you might choose to ignore this information or decide that it doesn’t pertain to you because you’re no longer in elementary school, but older students can forget things they’ve learned just as easily as younger ones can. Try to think back to classes you had during your first or second semester of college … do you remember everything that you learned? I certainly don’t, and my guess is if you can remember everything from every class you’ve ever taken, you’re a rare breed.

Stay “Active” During Your Summer Break

Retaining knowledge is critical at any age or grade level, college included. College courses related to your major all build upon one another, which is why you can’t enroll in upper-level classes until you’ve completed lower-level prerequisites. If you find yourself forgetting the material you’ve learned, you’ll have difficulty in subsequent classes.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a music education major when I was in college. During the school year, I was required to participate in formal weekly music lessons. I was forced to practice because I had to perform for my instructor each week. In addition to the private lessons which I took on two instruments, I played in various musical ensembles on campus—groups which rehearsed two or three times per week. I even gave music lessons to high school students, which made me rethink my own skills because I had to explain things to younger people. During the summer, though, it was an entirely different story. I lived with my parents and I could have easily arranged summer lessons with my instructors if I took the initiative, but I didn’t. I got lazy during the summer, and my playing showed it. I was definitely a “summer slider.”

If you have to leave campus during the summer break because you have a job lined up at home or you’re skipping college summer courses for financial reasons, there are a few things you can do over the break to ensure you don’t fall victim to the summer slide like I did:

  • Read. It doesn’t matter if you visit the library, buy yourself a few used books on Amazon, look through the newspaper each morning or visit websites regularly. Read. Pick your poison, whatever it may be. Just be sure to read something, and read often. If you’re feeling intellectual, the College Board offers a list of 101 Great Books.
  • Review Your Material. Every week or two, take a few minutes to scan through your notes or essays from the courses that you took during the previous semester. This will allow you to remember the things that were discussed in class. You don’t have to re-read your textbooks (if you even have them anymore) but be sure to look things over occasionally.
  • Try Out Some Free Online College Courses. Just last week I wrote about the wide variety of college courses at prestigious universities that are available online for free. You won’t earn college credit at your own school, but why pass up the opportunity to learn for free?

Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.