We are well into the dogdays of summer. If you’re still in school, summer can be a time to relax, binge watch Breaking Bad (again), and forget about homework and project deadlines. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when our brains aren’t being stimulated to the extent that they are during the school year. This decrease in activity leads to a phenomenon that researchers have called “brain drain” which is essentially the idea that students fail to retain the learning that they did during the school year. This concept of “brain drain” has been found to have a larger effect on lower-income families who often don’t have the time or resources to send their kids to summer camps, take them to museums, or hire a private tutor—all ways to mitigate the effects of brain drain. Now, we know that first-gen college student and low income are by no means synonymous, but a large portion of the first-gen college community can be found at the intersection of these two groups.
The reasons for brain-drain feed into the broader theme of the widening achievement gap in the U.S. and would require a much longer and in-depth discussion. The present treatment of brain drain has yet to address alternative sources of summertime learning—be it intergenerational or other. These are all interesting topics, which for the sake of brevity we’ll leave for another day.
Today, however, we thought we’d provide 5 (FREE) ideas to help keep your mind engaged this summer. Why does it matter, you ask? Cumulative brain drain, that is the amount of summer learning loss that occurs throughout a person’s education, has been hypothesized by some researchers to account for the entire education gap.Drawing on my own personal experience, I always find that I’m much better at writing papers in May than September and I can’t be the only one who’s felt that way!
So let’s get to it, here are 5 easy ways to combat brain drain:
1. READ. I’ve gushed about the benefits of reading the past two posts, so I’ll keep this brief. Learn about a new topic, delve into a new story, travel the world through the written word. Visit your local library—you don’t even have to hunt for the book—just log onto your online library account and place the books you’d like to pick up on hold. You’ll be notified when they’re ready and you can simply pick them up. Easy as that!
3. Watch a documentary. Don’t have a Netflix or Hulu account? I’ve watched some of my favorite documentaries on YouTube. All it takes is a quick search to see what’s available!
4. Learn a new skill by watching online tutorials. Whether you want to better your mile time, learn a new language, or start meditating, there is a tutorial out there just for you.
5. Spread out whatever summer assignments you have. Instead of rushing to complete your work at the end of the summer, try starting on your assignments early. This way, you’re being proactive about your work, but you also don’t have to dig deep into the recesses of your brain to figure out how to craft a persuasive argument. It’s a win, win.
Alexander, K. L., Entwisle, D. R., & Olson, L. S. (2007). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180.