Whether you spend your summer on the campus or off it, work on an independent research project or take a part-time job, summer can become an incredibly productive addition to your overall college experience. You just have to make plans ahead of time, because otherwise, it is all too easy to go with the flow and waste your summer months on nothing in particular. So, what exactly can you do to make good use of your time? Let’s explore some opportunities.
1. Recharge Your Batteries
Whatever else you do, make sure you take some time off the more ostensibly useful activities and relax. After all, summer is the time for rest and recuperation after a hectic and exhausting academic year. However, try to avoid spending your entire summer sleeping late or playing video games late into the night – there are plenty of healthier ways to blow off steam. Spend time in nature, away from electronic devices. Explore a new hobby. Read a few books, either for your own pleasure or to learn something new.
2. Pick up a New Skill
Summer is ideally suited for learning something new, because you can dedicate huge chunks of uninterrupted time to a single activity. Therefore, it gives you a good opportunity to explore something new: master a new skill, learn how to use a piece of complicated software, or take a language course. Learn how to take better photos and use post-processing software. If you have academic interests outside of your major, use summer to dip into a new subject. You can explore a few different interests in the course of a single pastime – for example, if you are interested in sociology, you can work on mastering presentation-making software on the side and explore a few sociology presentation topics in the course of it.
3. Prepare for an Independent Research Project
If you consider taking up an independent research project next year (especially if it involves applying for funding), you have to start preparing for it as early as possible. You cannot simply sit down and write a research proposal, especially if you deal with medical science or another similar discipline. You have to explore multiple topics, communicate with the faculty, find a mentor and discuss your plans with him/her, articulate your ideas, study the research done by other people, and much more. You are unlikely to have enough time for it all during your next term, so get in touch with your mentor and start working right now.
4. Create and Maintain Connections with the Faculty
While both you and the faculty members are likely to spend the summer off the campus, there are ways to build and maintain connections with them during this period. First of all, single out the faculty member or members of interest. Find out what they do, what kind of research they pursue, and so on. Find a few articles written by them and read them. This way, you will be well-prepared when it comes to meeting them in person after you return to college.
If you already have well-established connections with some members of the faculty, reach out to them before the summer break and ask for reading recommendations. As summer goes on, read the recommended articles and prepare some questions about them. As you proceed with them, send an email asking for a further recommendation – this will show your genuine interest in the chosen subject, as well as your proactive approach.
5. Get an Internship
Take the skills you learned over the last year and put them to practical use. Even if the internship in question does not pay, it is an excellent way to obtain real work experience in the chosen field, learn more about an industry you are interested in and build connections that may come in handy later on. It will be a good addition to your resume, as well.
6. Take a Summer Job
Spending the summer working, be it a full-time or part-time job, is a prime opportunity to build up real-world work experience as well as some useful skills, such as communication, teamwork, time management, and more. Even if the job is not directly relevant for your intended future career, some skills you learn can still be transferrable.
Find a cause you believe in and join a volunteer program. There are always organizations looking for people ready to dedicate their time to them, be it in the local community or abroad. In addition to doing something you believe to be useful, you will obtain valuable work experience and a nice addition to your resume.
Of course, there are many other ways to spend your summer productively – as long as you have a plan and intend to use this time to move towards your goals, everything is going to be alright!