Best way do develop skills

So I am going to school now and one of my classes is basic C++ programing and I have two more programing classes to take; object orientated programming and Java programing. My question is what is the best way to get better at programing outside of what my assignments.
I thought of making basic programs and just keep making improvements and adding features as I learn more.

I don't see myself working directly in programing after I finish school, but I would like to be able to understand what is going on in a given program. Additionally, I would like to make basic apps for Android.

To make apps for Android you're most likely going to be relying on Java more than you are c++ (There is a NDK that supports C++ but they discourage using it very much)
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