Staying at university over the summer break

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

If you are staying at university for the duration or part of the summer break, making some plans in advance will help to ensure it is as good an experience as possible.

Your university is likely to be quieter over the break. Some university buildings may be closed for part of the time. Services provided by your university and Students’ Union or Guild may have different opening hours. Staff may be around less. It is also likely that there will also be fewer students around. This may change the university environment and the local areas - shops, pubs, bars etc. may all be much quieter. Being around your university during the summer can be a very different experience.

Knowing this can help you to think ahead and get the most out of your time. Taking control of your time proactively can help you to get the most out of the break and feel more positive.

Keep busy

Maintaining a daily structure and keeping active will help to maintain your mood and energy levels. A lack of structure and vegging out can be fine for a day or two, but over time it leaves us feeling sluggish and down.

Having a plan for each day can help you to stay active. You may want to think about socialising with friends who are still around; spring cleaning your room, getting regular exercise or studying for next term. This will help you to feel you are achieving something each day. Paid work can also help to provide some structure, as well as income, social interaction and a focus for each week.

The main thing that I believe helps with your mental health is keeping busy… I also use the time to practice mindfulness, meditation and the time that I have with myself as a way to build a stronger, more grounded relationship within.


Try to maintain social activities even if fewer people are around. Not all students will go home for the whole of the break. Find out when your friends are going to be around and plan meet ups with them. If there are periods where your friends aren’t around, try to schedule regular calls and video calls with friends and family elsewhere. You can also use this time as an opportunity to meet new friends. Student Union forums might help you to connect with others who are staying over summer. Or you may find new people in a workplace or the local community.


Volunteering is an excellent way of keeping busy and doing something positive. Volunteering to help others is also good for us and it can help to build up your CV.

Your university, Students’ Union, Guild or careers team may have some volunteering opportunities or you can explore what opportunities there are through local and national charities such as Time Bank.

Volunteering will also help you by putting you in touch with other people and giving you a sense of purpose.


Sunlight and exercise improves mood and will help you feel better physically as well. This doesn’t have to mean strenuous exercise each day or joining a gym. Regular walks in daylight can improve our health and mood.

Use what is positive

The end of term can bring a drop in focus and intensity - this may provide a chance for you to review how your year has gone and begin planning to learn from this and make the most of next year. You may be able to take more control of your time and focus on doing some things that are good for you right now, to rest, recuperate and be ready for next year.


Give yourself rewards over the summer break. These don’t have to cost a lot of money but, if you can, treat yourself to something special. You could, for example, cook yourself a nice meal or just set aside time to watch a movie or read a book.

Seek support

If you are worried about how you will feel during the break it may help to talk to someone beforehand

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Page last reviewed: August 2023