It feels like we just moved them in only a few weeks ago, right? And now, we have a few weeks before they move all of that stuff back into the room that you may–or may not–have rearranged into a yoga studio. But have you had a conversation yet about what they will be doing during the months-long break? If not, here is a list of ways your student can make the most of the time away from college
1. Take a college class or two. Wait, what? Aren’t they away from college? Actually, summer is a great time to take college classes to earn more credits or to improve a Grade Point Average. Some students use the summer to take classes near their home (it can be cheaper if they are not living on campus) so they can complete prerequisite courses or to give themselves more flexibility in their fall and spring schedules. My own college student is taking a science course with a lab so that she is not as busy in the fall when she travels with her soccer team. Taking this one class will certainly lessen her stress next fall if it doesn’t necessarily help her graduate earlier.
Tips for taking college classes: Your student will have to go through the admissions process and submit required documentation. In some cases, that may be a transcript from the institution they attend during the school year. Summer classes are often popular and fill up quickly, so be sure to stay on top of deadlines and required forms. Summer classes are also faster paced and require that your student spend the time between classes reading, completing assignments, and studying.
2. Earn some money with a part- or full-time job. Seasonal work for college students is a great way to earn money that can be used for college expenses. Jobs can also be great ways to network, build a resume, and learn real-world career skills. Jobs also reinforce those soft skills like time management that are important in college.
Tips for earning money with a job: I wrote about this recently, but it is worth repeating: Your student should practice professionalism on the job even if it is short-term employment. You may also want to talk to your student about spending and saving expectations. Is the money that the your student earns going towards college expenses such as textbooks and supplies? If so, consider creating a budget and process for saving a portion of each paycheck.
3. Participate in an internship. Internships are a great way to get specific career experience and mentorship. While jobs may be plentiful, internships are often a little harder to find and can be paid or unpaid. Consider the costs (such as housing and transportation) as well as the benefits (good opportunity to gain career experience) before making the decision. In some cases, gaining general work experience can be just as valuable as specific career experience.
Tips for participating in an internship: Even if the internship is unpaid, your student will need to treat it like a job. While there may be more opportunity to participate in certain types of work and get mentoring from people in the field, there will still be job expectations. Everything your student would do for a job should be done for an internship: professional or appropriate attire, punctuality, attention to job duties, and the like. Your student may need to ask people in the field they want to work for opportunities or work with their own college to help them find appropriate placement.
4. Shadow a job. Job shadowing is an more flexible alternative to an internship, which can last weeks or months. Your student can still get relevant experience and information about potential careers without a lengthy commitment. The goal behind job shadowing is to get a good sense of the day-to-day activities that professionals do in their careers.
Tips for job shadowing: Your student can find a potential person to shadow by asking for recommendations or using existing networks. A parent of a friend who is a financial planner may agree to talking with or hosting an economics major for a day or two. The key to making a job shadow more effective is to start with an informational interview and then gauging further interest. Some organizations may also have coordinated job shadowing opportunities for young people during the summer. The larger the organization, the more likely they may have such a program, so encourage your student to ask.
5. Serve the community. Spending time as a community volunteer is another way to spend the summer break and it has the added bonus of doing something good for the community. Service can be formal and done through an existing organization (and there are so many that need additional volunteers during the summer when people often go on vacation) or could be informal to serve an immediate need.
Tips for serving the community: Start first with established community service organizations to determine if they have a need for volunteers. Scour publications and social media for local upcoming events that are in search of people to help. Finally, look around your neighborhood and talk to residents about their needs. There may be an elderly neighbor who needs his yard cleaned or a porch painted. No service is too small.
6. Study abroad. While it takes a little more planning and funding to pull off, using summer break to study abroad is an excellent way of earning college credits while exploring and experiencing a different place or culture. Many students think of study abroad as something that takes place over the course of multiple months like a fall or spring term, but study abroad opportunities can be short and during regularly scheduled breaks.
Tips for studying abroad: Start as early as possible in the process if your student wants to earn credit towards their degree. If they are more focused on the experience rather than earning college credit, then they can search for less formal (and perhaps less expensive) options that allow them to study in another country. Start your research with nationally-recognized programs.
7. Develop skills. No matter how your student stays busy during summer, consider approaching the break as an opportunity to develop their skills. Do they need to work on time management and academic skills or should their time be spent on interpersonal skill building, the kind that can be practiced on a job or from working with the community? Yes, your student may need an “academic” break from studying and writing papers, but that doesn’t mean your student cannot continue learning.
Tips for developing skills. The key to making this strategy work is to set some intentional goals first. What does your student want to work on? What does your student need to work on? A mix of interest and need can help students stay motivated. For example, if your student experienced difficulty staying on a budget while at college, you may want to set some budgeting goals and work with them (or find other resources they can use to guide them) to stay on task and meet those goals.