A very smart woman once told my freshman students that last summer was their last free summer. She was right. From this point forward, you are charged with using every summer to prepare your academic and career aspirations forward. Summer is no longer a break. It's a chance for you to maximize your college experience by participating in programs, employment or volunteer activities that will provide more insight into your career.
A summer experience can either confirm you’re on the right track with a major that ignites you, or perhaps, let you know that something
isn’t the best fit. Sometimes you may not enjoy a specific experience within your major, but doing something different will work best for you. The idea is to use your summer productively. If you are deciding between taking classes and a summer opportunity, I say go for the summer opportunity. Good experiences outweigh taking an extra semester, or year, to graduate. The caveat to this is if not taking the class prevents you from moving forward and making progress towards your major. In that situation, take the class.
One of the first places you can begin your search for a summer opportunity is through your campus Career Services office. They will have a database of summer opportunities for you to search. Summer opportunities include corporate internships, research, which often occurs on university campuses, and volunteer opportunities. If it's not electronic, you may have to do a little research within your major find those summer opportunities.
It's also a good idea to ask your major advisor if they know of anything in regard to summer opportunities or experiences for undergraduates. Now, if you're in the stem field, the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, the National Science Foundation, or NSF for short, has summer research programs all across the country to help students gain experience. Those programs also let you know specifically if you enjoy research, and you can figure out whether you may want to pursue research in graduate school. As a freshman, the key is finding something that doesn't require a large amount of background knowledge. Most freshman students don't have a lot of course work in their major to prepare them for their first summer position. However, there are programs and internships and volunteer opportunities designed specifically for students in that situation to help them get started.
The student arm of your professional organization is another good place to start your summer opporutnities search. Whether you are a business major, an engineer a scientist, humanity, or pre-law, there should be a student arm of the professional organization(s) associated with your major. Check their website, follow them on social media, and read emails from them to get the latest information on opportunities.
Regardless of how you identify a potential summer internship or research experience, now is the time to start the search. You can use winter break to complete and submit applications and you’ll usually have to report your GPA and maybe submit a transcript. Even if it hadn’t occurred to you before, your performance this semester will determine your eligibility for some of these experiences. So decide right now how satisfied you are with your current academic performance and how to leverage your fall semester for the best college experience possible.
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*Note: This blog post is crafted from evergreen content, providing timeless insights that remain valuable and relevant over time to support your educational journey.