John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Last Chance: Urge your Students to Stay Connected this Summer

The Baptists got it right on one thing: summer is the time for “backsliding.” It has been explained to me that the origin of the ubiquitous southern Protestant phenomena of “Vacation Bible School” was the recognition that in summer, young people had more free time, and thus more time to be the handmaidens of the devil. The regular school structure was absent and “Vacation Bible School” was an effort to fill that void and keep kids on the straight and narrow.

A few years ago the most distinguished educational researcher in the employee of the US Department of Education, Clifford Adelman, published in his volume “Toolbox Revisited” some compelling data about the impact of having participated in any summer school whereby credits were accumulated, and probability of degree completion. What he found was that any participation in summer school enhanced the probability of degree completion, especially for minority students.

This all points to the value of staying connected. There is no doubt that for many students, summer is a disruption of “satisfactory academic progress”. They “go back home” in their heads, if not literally. And they fall back into pre college habits of mind and practice. And then it takes a lot of catch up time in the fall to get back in the groove.

So as you are winding down the year, I urge you to invite your students to rethink their stereotypes about summer school. It is not for dummies as they may have learned in high school. It is for the fast burners. Urge their consideration for summer school to “maintain the momentum”, get an especially hard course out of the way, experiment with something new, etc.

In addition to enrolling in credit courses, there are other ways to “stay connected” during the summer:
1. Many colleges hire students for summer employment-not glamorous work, but often comes with room and board and maybe time to do a summer school course too, and earn some extra money.
2. Internships, coop, practica, all connected to the major
3. Study abroad
4. Volunteer experience connected to the major
5. ROTC summer camp

And this is not a complete list by any means. This is to urge you then in one of your final classes to invite students to stay connected during the summer. It may eliminate one more opportunity for us to loose them, and them to loose us. The latter is the more serious of the two.

-John Gardner

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