by Eric Pilch

Sleeping until the wee hours of the afternoon and clocking in hours of TV marathons can seem tempting after a year’s worth of school work. However, a recent study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning found that students of all ages actually experience learning loss if they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer. We can’t make this stuff up. So, unless getting stupider is on your to-do list, consider slapping these suggestions on your summertime syllabus:

Play Games

If you have the keen intellect (or plain-old patience) to complete crossword puzzles and sudoku, but these brain-building bad boys are a great way to keep your mind in shape and build cognitive skills. For social smarts, call some friends over for a game of poker. And if you’re hesitant to leave your friends (on Facebook), take a stab at the site’s popular Geo Challenge, Word Challenge or Crazy Taxi. (OK, the last one’s just for fun.) Any more brain busters?

Gain Virtual Knowledge

For those with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge (and yes, we’re talking to you, Ivy Leaguers), Academic Earth and iTunes U are absolutely riveting resources. Academic Earth is an online collection of lectures and public events from many of the country’s most outstanding thinkers. Find everything from “Stellar Mass Black Holes” to “The Global Future” in high-quality video. Part of Apple’s popular music software, iTunes U has the best collection of audio and video materials from top universities, such as Harvard, Oxford and MIT. You can even catch President Obama’s recent commencement address at Notre Dame. The best part is that both services are free as long as you have a computer and Internet connection. And who doesn’t love free stuff?

Write Stuff

Although there’s no need to sweat over all-night study sessions just yet, it’s a good idea to keep up on your writing skills. And just like counting birthday messages on your Facebook wall doesn’t count as brushing up on math, we’re not counting texting, BBMing or you plastering your BFF’s Facebook wall as “writing”. If you don’t already keep a diary, start one. Every night, you can record your deepest, darkest secrets or -- if you fear you’re not that interesting -- try writing a story about something that made you laugh or gawk or cry that day. And don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or two, although you will get a kick out of it when you can go back later and reminisce about your sa-weet summer.

Go by the Book

Want a get-smart shortcut? Of course you do: The easiest way to keep your mind on the mark is to pick a book and read it. Duh. Here are some suggestions if you want to read something that’s:


Brew a cup of herbal decaf (or be a contentious objector and grab a cup o’ joe) and sit down with Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time. This best-selling memoir tells the inspiring story of Greg Mortenson, who was taken in by villagers after getting lost mountain-climbing in a remote part of Pakistan.


Barefoot: A Novel, by Elin Hilderbrand, is a story that’s perfect for curling up with during your summer escape, since it follows three women vacationing in Nantucket to escape marital problems, a career-ending mistake and a debilitating illness.


Check out When You Are Engulfed in Flames, a collection of essays (perfect for short attention spans) by the famously funny and oft-inappropriate David Sedaris, who will keep you laughing from cover to cover.

Available on

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace

Barefoot: A Novel

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons from an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind

Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College


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College Students Avoid Getting Stupid This Summer