Our fifth quarter culture

Lindsay Wu

There are 36 days until summer, according to one of my classmates. Though he has announced the latest count after each eighth period math class since October, the end of the school year is now almost tangible.
However, before reaching the much-anticipated vacation, students must endure arguably the busiest period of the entire year. With spring break seemingly far in the past, AP classes concluding and standardized tests approaching, many students are desperately trying to raise their grades and cram in last-minute studying. Amid this fourth-quarter frenzy, students are also tasked with solidifying plans for a now essential aspect of high school: summer activities.

Summer is no longer the idealized, three-month break consisting solely of travel, time with friends and endless relaxation.

Despite the inviting sunshine, beaches and pools, many students are forced to spend their vacation indoors instead of outside. While the school does not assign summer material, students are far from free of academic work due to college-related pressures to develop their resumes or increase test scores. In a Chronicle poll of 231 students, 45 percent said they will attend a pre-college program or educational internship this summer, and 38 percent said they will engage in standardized testing preparation or devote significant time to writing college applications.

Essentially, students adopt another academic quarter in addition to the rigorous four they already complete during the school year. Coupled with year-round work, the lack of necessary breaks increases the chance that students will burn out mentally.

Despite this danger, summer activities can be greatly beneficial for students when planned thoughtfully. If balanced with ample time to rejuvenate and enjoy time away from the school environment, students will be able to utilize their extended break in productive ways.

Though possibly the least enjoyable way to spend vacation, studying for standardized tests is worthwhile. Developing and honing necessary skills over the summer months can allow students to finish testing early, or at least reduce preparation time and stress throughout the course of the year.
Over the summer, students also have uninterrupted time to explore various fields, whether similar or completely unrelated to topics they have already studied. Without the burden of nightly homework assignments from required classes, students can devote themselves to defining their genuine interests and pursue opportunities not possible during the academic year. For example, numerous programs run by established institutions offer courses in sciences, humanities and arts that allow students to learn in-depth about and research specialized topics unavailable to them in school. Reputable programs or internships with industry professionals can connect students with valuable mentors. Should they become interested in the field, students will have already gained necessary experience and inspiration to guide them further in their academic careers.

In addition, students often enjoy their summer programs. While an academic summer initially may not seem entertaining, institutions bring together groups of unique people with similar interests who become immediate friends. Also, programs are often based in cities or countries away from Los Angeles, where living, learning and exploring with other high schoolers is sure to be an exciting experience.

After struggling through nine months of school—and constantly looking forward to the next day off— summer is most definitely necessary to recover from the previous year and preparing for the next. While our June, July and August months may not be the peaceful vacations we have dreamed of, taking advantage of the spare time to pursue passions is important, not just for the sake of college admissions, but for personal discovery and preparation for the future. Regardless of how you choose to spend your summer this year, hopefully it will be one to remember.