What You Can Do to Get Ahead Over Summer Break

What You Can Do to Get Ahead Over Summer Break

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No matter your age, summer can be a time to relax and enjoy the pool, a good book, and your travels. However, it can also be a time to put in a bit of extra work toward enhancing your résumé or participating in activities that you may not have as much time to devote to during the school year. These tips are for both high school and college students, but some may be more relevant to one group or the other.

  • Explore an interest. Whether there’s a subject you’ve been passionate about for a long time, a hobby that will allow you to develop new skills, or a project you can finally start on, dedicate your time to something! If you’re in high school, take the summer to explore potential majors. If you’re interested in physics, study up! If you prefer English lit, hit the library. You’ll save valuable electives if you head into college with a good understanding of your interests. If you’re already a college student, your free time will decrease dramatically once you graduate and enter the job market, so spend time discovering what hobbies you find fulfilling. Either way, take advantage of your time now!
  • Find an internship. Search local businesses, listings at your school, and websites like Internships.com or LinkedIn for opportunities. This article, published by Forbes, discusses the value of internships for college students, especially those going into competitive fields like finance, technology, and law. Perks of an internship? Even if it’s unpaid, you’ll still learn valuable skills and can list the experience on your résumé. It may even lead to a job offer later on!
  • Get a job. From earning money for living expenses to gaining experience to draw from later, the benefits of a part-time job are extensive. Money is probably the benefit that calls to you the most (who doesn’t want to splurge on a weekend trip or a new wardrobe?), but you’ll also expand your network. Plus, even if you’re just working the cash register at the local ice cream shop, you’ll learn soft skills that will be useful once you start your career… not to mention the free ice cream. Check out this Student Caffé blog post that offers tips on finding a summer job to high school students.
  • Learn how to live on your own. This is relevant to everyone, no matter your age, especially if you’re going to live with roommates in the future. Budgeting, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and paying bills are all important once you move out of your parents’ house and into your own apartment. Trust me, you don’t want to be the roommate who doesn’t know how to do his own dishes.
  • Participate in a research project. While there may not be tons of opportunities available for high school students, college students should talk to their advisor about opportunities to complete research in their field. Being an active participant in a research project is a great learning experience, and also looks good on a résumé, especially if you’re in the sciences or hoping to go to graduate school! If you’re really lucky, you’ll get in on a project that’s paid or counts as course credit!
  • Shadow someone in a career that interests you. Make a list of jobs you think you might enjoy working, and then ask around to find out if your parents, neighbors, or friends know anyone in one of those fields whom you could spend a day with. You could also ask an academic advisor to put you in touch with alumni, or see if your guidance counselor has any leads. Job shadowing is a great way to get an idea of what a certain career involves on a day-to-day basis.
  • Take extra classes. Most colleges offer summer courses, which can help you get your credits done faster—if you have been awarded financial aid, though, you should check whether it covers summer terms. You may also be able to find cheaper classes at the local community college, or you could consider online courses through a traditional or online college or an education platform like Coursera. If you take classes through an institution other than your primary college, make sure your credits will transfer.
  • Prep for standardized tests. Whether you’re a high school student who will soon be taking the ACT or SAT, or a college student who is planning to take the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT, use your extra time in the summer to study on your own or take a prep class.
  • Visit potential colleges. If you are a high school student who is looking at colleges, try to visit some over your summer break. While you probably won’t be able to sit in on any classes (unless there’s a summer term), you’ll still be able to get a feel for the campus culture and figure out if it is a good fit for you. As a bonus, explore the town, not just the college. Sometimes that is enough to determine whether you want to apply.
  • Volunteer. No matter if you’re in high school or college, volunteer work is a great experience and can show your dedication to and passion for a cause you care about. If you know what career path you plan to follow, try to find a volunteer opportunity related to it. Otherwise, it’s important to find something that you care about and stick with it.
  • Work on your college or graduate school applications or update your résumé. This can apply to students looking at undergraduate programs, graduate programs, and those who will be entering the job market. Getting a start on your personal statement or cover letter over the summer will save you time later, and you’ll have plenty of time to perfect your materials before they have to be submitted!

Obviously, this list isn’t the be all, end all of things you can do to get ahead in the summer. Really, anything that keeps your brain working and thinking is going to be beneficial in some way. Make a list of books that you want to read, study up on the next level of math, or work on your language skills. An investment in yourself (not just an investment in your tan or your Instagram skills) is an investment in your future.

About Hannah Holley

Hannah earned a BS in Psychology from the College of Charleston, and an MA in applied behavior analysis from Ball State University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and worked as a therapist for children with special needs for more than five years, but now spends most of her time keeping up with her own toddler. In between playing cars and picking up after her tiny human tornado, she loves to try new recipes, take photographs, and re-watch episodes of "Parks and Recreation" for the 10th time. Hannah lives in Charleston, SC.

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