It’s that time of year again: your friends are all starting to announce their plans for the summer. Their paying, professional, real-live adult plans. Meanwhile, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably lying in bed with one hand in a box of cereal and the other aimlessly scrolling through your Twitter feed in hopes that if you ignore the problem of summer plans, it will go away. If you starting to feel the weight of the world (i.e. your parent’s disapproving stares at your choice of major) falling on your shoulders, don’t worry: your friends here at Wesleying are here to help!
First, you want to figure out what type of summer experience you are looking for. There are two main routes you can take on this: summer programs or work.
There are many summer educational and experiential programs that can open your eyes to new possibilities, bolster your résumé, or just make you feel fulfilled after spending the year in academic hell. Many of these programs allow you to travel, engage in service work, or spend a concentrated amount of time devoted to a subject you are really passionate about.
A lot of people choose to travel or study abroad over the summer so that they don’t have to put their status of graduating on time in jeopardy.
Wesleyan also has Summer Session, which lets you take classes over the summer to catch up or get ahead on credits!
A quick Google search for “summer programs for college students” yields tons of results for all sorts of options. With a little research, you’re sure to find a program that is right for you!
Summer programs are great opportunities, but keep in mind that you almost always have to pay for them (unless you get a stipend or grant), and you definitely won’t be earning money.
If you choose to go the work route, there are three main options: professional paid, professional unpaid, and practical.
A professional summer job can take the form of an internship in a field related to your major or a research fellowship. Sometimes these are paid positions, sometimes you can get college credit for them, and sometimes you just take the position to get the experience in a field you’re interested in even though you’re not getting paid.
Don’t forget that if you are relocating to a new place for an internship, you will have to figure out living arrangements. Some internships offer housing programs or stipends, but many (especially with smaller businesses and non-profits) leave that responsibility to you. It’s glamorous to have a fancy NYC internship, but unless you already live in the city, it’s also expensive. Take this into consideration along with whether/how much you are going to get paid when deciding what jobs you are going to apply for.
Internships are a great way to build up a professional resume, but sometimes you just need to save up some money, and it makes more sense to take a job like working at a local restaurant and curbing your expenses by living at home (if your parents let you) or in a location with a low cost of living. A friend of my mom’s who is a hiring professional actually says that she prefers hiring people who have worked in the service industry because they have the soft-skills associated with working with other people that applicants who have spent their whole lives in the office tend to lack.
Additionally, if there are remote unpaid opportunities in your area of interest, you can use the down time from your “practical” job to put some hours into those. It’s sometimes hard to justify taking unpaid positions, but if you’re already making money and you have the time, why not use some of it to further your professional goals as well?
Ultimately, your summer experience is what you make of it. There is no single “right” summer experience that future employers or grad school admissions officers are going to look for. No matter where you end up or what you end up doing, making personal connections and demonstrating that you are a hard-working, responsible individual will get you further than any prestigious internship program. There are many factors to consider, and what’s right for your friends and family may not be a path that makes sense for you. As long as you have prioritized your goals and have set yourself a path to meet them, you’re going to be just fine!
Check back next week for the next installment of SUMMER?! where I will explain how to find and apply for internships/jobs!