"What did you do this summer?"

It's a question we can all anticipate hearing when we get back to campus this fall. There are plenty of great potential answers, such as, "I traveled!," "I had a summer job!," and "I did some hiking!"

What will you say when someone asks you about your summer? If you still aren't sure, some planning and prioritizing are definitely in order.

While you may feel some pressure to use this time to get ahead, there are options for staying active and engaged while also taking a break from attending classes. Beyond summer internships, there are a few ways to focus on your personal and professional development between semesters.

  • Develop a Skill

    Approximately 40% of full-time students and 80% of part-time students work while they're in school. If you are working this summer, have a conversation with your employer to see if you can learn useful new tasks, shadow senior employees, and participate in training exercises. Think about how you're building your network and gaining work experience, regardless of the position you're working in, the location, or the industry.

  • Work With Your College’s Career Center

    You may not realize it, but most student support offices are open all year. If you live close to campus, make an appointment to meet with a career counselor or coach before fall classes begin. For example, the University of South Florida is promoting several summer services, such as walk-in hours and conversations with peer advisors. If you don't live near campus, check out the website for your school's career center to find out what online resources and virtual services may be available. Boise State University’s Career Center, for example, offers phone, video, and email appointments, as well as a self-guided Virtual Career Center. It’s never too early to start working on your resume!

  • Create Your Own Reading List

    The idea of "summer reading" is nothing new, but the summer reading challenge from Wake Forest University offers fresh inspiration. Instead of listing specific titles, it provides categories to prompt your choice of books, such as "a nonfiction book about technology," "a book recommended by someone famous," "a book about travel," or "a book with career advice."

  • Prepare for the Fall Semester

    You don’t have to spend all of your summer preparing to go back to school, but you should set aside some time to get familiar with what life will be like when you return to campus. Contact and check the websites for the departments offering the classes you're registered for to access sample syllabi and textbook lists.

    Some faculty members will be on campus during the summer, so why not introduce yourself with an email? You can also connect with academic advisors, financial aid counselors, and housing coordinators, as these offices are usually open year-round. As the summer continues, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor provides a few tips to help you avoid the chaos a new semester can bring and "get into study mode."

  • Take a Class Anyway

    Summer classes aren't for everyone, but if you are interested in working toward graduation throughout the year, see what your school has to offer. There may still be time to register for a late summer session, either on campus or online. Check with your academic advisor now to explore your options, including earning transferable credits from a college closer to where you're spending your summer and the potential impact on any financial assistance you're receiving.

  • Experience the season!

    Last, but certainly not least, summer break is designed to be just that -- a break. Plan to spend some of this time doing the things you love but don't always get to participate in during the school year. Enjoying outdoor activities, hobbies, travel, time with family, and a little rest are all appropriate! You may even want to make sure you leave some of your summer unscheduled. Downtime allows you time to think, reflect, create, and even meditate. In our busy lives, on campus and off, doing nothing is something.

    Summer as a season and a college break is always shorter than you think it will be, and it's already underway. So what will you do this summer? Whether you plan to relax on the beach with a book, take a few extra shifts at work, sleep in, take a road trip, or some combination of all of the above, make the most of the time available to you.