Making the Most of Summer Break in College

Making the Most of Summer Break in College
portrait of Melissa Venable, Ph.D.
By Melissa Venable, Ph.D.

Published on June 8, 2021

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"What did you do this summer?" — it's a question all college students can anticipate hearing when they get back to campus in the fall. There are plenty of great potential answers, too, such as "I traveled," "I worked a summer job," or "I did some hiking."

But what will you say when someone asks you about your summer? If you're still unsure, some planning and prioritizing are in order.

While you may feel pressure to use this time to get ahead, you have several other options for staying active and engaged while still taking a break from schoolwork.

6 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Summer Vacation

Develop Relevant Skills

Around 40% of full-time college students and 80% of part-time students work while they're in school. If you're working this summer, talk with your employer about how you can best hone your skills and whether you could shadow senior employees or participate in training exercises. Focus on developing the hard and soft skills most relevant to your major and future career.

Think, too, about how you're building your professional network and gaining work experience. If you don't have a job and want one, try searching for openings on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and College Recruiter.


Work With Your College Career Center

You might not realize it, but most student support offices are open year-round.

If you live close to campus, consider making an appointment to meet with a career counselor or coach before fall classes begin. For example, the University of South Florida offers several summer services, such as career fairs, walk-in hours, and conversations with peer advisors.

If you don't live near campus, check out your school's career center website to find out what online resources and virtual services may be available. Boise State University's Career Center, for instance, 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 a Summer Reading List

The idea of "summer reading" isn't new, but the summer reading challenge from Wake Forest University can offer fresh inspiration.

Instead of listing specific titles, the school provides categories to prompt your reading choices, such as "a nonfiction book about technology," "a book recommended by someone famous," and "a book about travel." For more ideas, check out these recommendations by UC Berkeley and NPR.

No matter what you read, the experience offers several benefits, like self-reflection, enhanced analytical thinking, stress relief, and improved concentration. And you don't have to read 100 books to make your summer reading effort worthwhile — simply pick an appealing title or author and get started.


Prepare for the Fall Term

You don't have to spend your entire summer preparing to go back to school, but you should set aside some time to get familiar with what life will be like once you return to campus. Take time to access sample syllabi and textbook lists for the classes you're thinking of registering for.

Some faculty members will be on campus during the summer, so you can introduce yourself in person (if you live nearby) or over email. You can also connect with academic advisors, financial aid counselors, and housing coordinators, as these offices are usually open throughout the year.

By August, you should really focus on getting back into "study mode."


Take a Class

Summer classes aren't for everyone, but if you want to graduate early, it's worth seeing what your school has to offer. There may still be time to register for a late summer session, either on campus or online.

Consult 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 such classes could have on any financial aid you're receiving.

If you're not concerned about earning academic credit, you may look for short-term options like free online courses, certificate programs, and seminars at local community colleges.


Relish the Season

Summer break is designed to be just that: a break. As such, you should plan to spend at least some of the time doing the things you love but don't always get to participate in during the school year.

Engage in outdoor activities and hobbies, and spend time traveling, being with your family, and resting. Don't feel bad about leaving some of your summer open. Downtime is essential for thinking, reflecting, and meditating; it can also help you bounce back from college burnout.

Don't Waste Your Summer Break in College

Summer always feels shorter than it actually is, and for many college students it's already under way. Whether you plan to relax on the beach with a book, take on a few extra shifts at work, sleep in, embark on a road trip, or some combination of all of the above, make the most of the time you have.


Feature Image: Kiattisak Lamchan / EyeEm / Getty Images



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