Jobs, sports, passion projects are better experiences than summer assignments for students

Students spend countless hours of their summer break laboring over work from a class they have not yet started. I’m sure many students can relate to seeing summer work popping up in their Google Classroom feed the minute before the school year ends (or even before then). While many students groan in response to seeing said notifications, many of us take it in stride and complete the work. I’ve found that as a rising senior, I have seen a steady increase in the amount of summer work I’ve been assigned each and every year. Each assignment, without fail, has been for an advanced class, whether that be an AP course or a dual enrollment class (like a SUNY or SUPA course).

I understand that this summer work is par for the course. How can we as students who are meant to mature and challenge ourselves more and more as we ascend the grades protest against summer work? We are the ones who chose to take the highly advanced classes; we should be the ones to reap what we sow in the end. We should have to do the work… at some point, right?

Yes. At least, partly yes.

While I do believe the assigning of summer work is warranted by teachers, the amount and the timing of the assignments are elements I and many of my peers take issue with. Even highly selective, elite colleges and universities around the country—including the eight Ivy League institutions —encourage students to spend their summers doing other things, like homegrown projects, sports, a paid or unpaid job. High school students should not be spending the few weeks they have for summer on academics when that is all they do during the school year.

It is also hard to miss that almost all summer assignments are due after school starts. Why, then, shouldn’t the work be assigned right at the beginning of the school year? We could still have the same task just once we’re already back in the building. I can’t be the only student who doesn’t want to think about the next school year the second the final bell of the year rings. We should be expected to complete work for these highly selective classes we’ve chosen, yes, but we should not be forced to spend the summers—that are meant for things outside of academics—inside working all day long.

There is a reason colleges do not assign summer work to their students once they get out in May. Many college students are expected to work or partake in non-academic activities during the months between when they leave in May and return in August or September.  So why are high school students held to a higher standard? Is it because teachers are trying to prepare us so much that college will be easy once we finally get there? Is it because they want us to stay focused on school even when we’re on a break? Is it because college is a gift, not having academic work, the reward? I wish I could provide an answer. 

Students in high school should be encouraged to do more than academics during the summers. Instead of drowning under countless assignments, we should be pushed to get a job, to start or continue a sport, to start or continue work on a project or extracurricular we love. While schoolwork is always important and necessary during the academic year, we should be allowed to enjoy our summer break for what it is… a break from academics. Even colleges don’t want to hear that you spent all your breaks working on academics when they read your application; they want well-rounded, multifaceted students for their incoming classes.

While students will get the summer work assignments completed eventually, it doesn’t change the fact that we should be encouraged to do things beyond the scope of academics and school. We should be given the opportunity to come back more refreshed in the fall, more ready for school than ever. Maybe then, when we are assigned the work in the first quarter, we will take all the energy we regained during the summer break and turn in better, more thoughtful work.