For many college students, it seems like the options for summer are often limited: take summer classes, get a job, apply for a paid internship (fancy job). These aren’t necessarily bad options, though. Earning money, learning skills, making connections or getting more education are all generally good things, but those summers in between years of classes offer plenty of other opportunities that far too many college students don’t even realize they have.
While all of these can be an option, and variations of them will be on this list, the best things to do this summer for college students involve going a little beyond the conventional. Read on to find the absolute best ways to spend your summer.
1. Focus on Learning a Specific New Skill
Education on its own isn’t going to impress on a resume; neither, however is pure work ethic, which is impossible to measure until you see someone work.
So, why not learn a skill? It can be related to a field you’re looking to get into, or it can be an entirely different field but something you enjoy (and might become a safety net if your primary plan don’t work out).
If you’re in a heavily academic major, maybe you learn something you’re interested in like woodworking or carpentry. If you’re more trade school oriented, maybe you look at learning WordPress or the ins and outs of Amazon Kindle e-books.
Specific skills are always useful, they open up plenty of doors and having several interesting skills on a resume coming out of college shows a rounded, motivated person capable of learning and adapting — and they will really stand out from the crowd.
2. Decide on a Work Plan
If money is a major issue, as it is for many college students, the job route might be the only way to go, but make a plan to get the most of it.
Can you get a job in your future field or a related one? That is ideal versus a job that has nothing to do with the field you’re going into. This is where paid internships might also be an option.
Another choice is to look at a job in a different field that could provide skills that might be useful in the future, even if they’re completely different. Sales is always a good skill to learn, for example.
If you’re looking at random low-skill jobs, then consider getting multiple jobs. You’re young, you have time and energy and being able to work extra hours allows you more money for emergencies, paying off college, investing early.
Plus, having some money saved opens up possibilities for things like unpaid internships, or J-Term or May-term classes, which can open doors for you but would be otherwise unaffordable.
3. Do Charity Work
Charity work is a great way to do some good, build up the resume and really feel good about the difference you’re making all at once.
That combination is hard to find, and whether full time or on the side, charity work is a great way to spend at least part of your summer months.
4. International Travel
Nothing opens up a person like travel. New people, new cultures, new challenges, new experiences — the open traveler is someone whose worldview can’t help but be heavily affected and influenced by their travels.
If this is an option, it’s one you should consider taking. Have some money but not rich? Great — take a look at backpacking trips, long hikes or popular inexpensive hostels that let you experience other countries without completely decimating your pocket book.
5. Volunteering Overseas
This is an ideal combination of the previous two entries. Volunteering overseas allows you to help others who need it, and it can take many forms, from teaching English as a second language to working with animals in a sanctuary.
Volunteering abroad often gives free or affordable housing as part of the package, and gives you a wonderful experience immersed in another culture while you can do good things, get an impressive star on your resume and gain life experience that you are likely to never forget.
Take a look at all the programs out there. Some might be unpaid but offer free food, housing and the basic necessities; others will offer these things and pay a basic stipend. In some cases a week or two of guided travel is even included, allowing you to further experience local culture and get your “vacation” travel in along with the charity work from volunteering. This is a great option for virtually any college student.
6. What’s Your Five-Year Plan?
Figure out a few specific things you want to do or learn and practice looking ahead by creating a five-year plan. Think about really specific things, goals or skills, and start immediate work to progress in that direction. This helps practice long-term thinking and goal setting.
Be specific, not general. “Become a millionaire” is terrible. Learn the “Thriller” dance by Michael Jackson is great. You can study the video, take some introductory dance courses and work your way toward that little goal that means something specific to you.
It’s also a weird resume add that might grab attention when you’re trying to get into a job you know other applicants outmatch you in via traditional means.
7. Find Your Art, Craft or Hobby
This one might be easy for art majors or the creative types, but even if you are artistic in nature, people change, especially from the ages of 16 – 25. Try out new creative activities and random hobbies to see if one just sticks, and don’t be afraid to get out and try different things.
Something you have no interest in initially could turn into a life-long passion. Even if it doesn’t, making an effort helps make you a far more rounded individual with a stronger sense of self and self awareness.
8. Start a Business
The current lingo is to “create a side hustle,” but a side hustle can be driving for Uber, picking up Craigslist jobs or learning to freelance.
All of those are good ways to take advantage of extra time in the summer, but for many students who are motivated or passionate starting a business could take that to an entirely new level.