Get an internship
Use your career center, first and foremost, to make sure you are taking advantage of all of the resources your college or university has to offer. You have paid for these services, so use them! There may be online job boards, alumni connections, and people in place to make sure your application is as strong as it can be. Outside of this, you have Linked In and other websites to help you network and find internship opportunities. Figure out what field you really want to learn about first-hand, and go for it!
Are you more interested in helping out a community than working in an office for the summer? This is definitely a grass roots generation, with more and more young adults understanding the importance of public service, and not just to build college applications. Doing something meaningful in the community where you live, in another state, or abroad, helps build and later demonstrate character while giving back. And yes, all of this work you do benefiting others looks great on a resume, whether you’re trying to go work for the White House, apply to law school, or lead your own project on campus.
Researching is a great skill to learn in college. It can come in handy in so many ways, both inside the classroom and later in the workplace. Summer is a great time to find faculty that are conducting research or running summer programs. Most programs will have a specific focus, whether scientific, economic, etc. Interested more in business? What do you think is the basis for marketing or consulting? You guessed it, research skills. Gathering and analyzing data, and using the findings to make recommendations are highly valued in these fields.
Uninterested in all of the above? More attracted to getting a j-o-b for the summer months? This is an option as well. Although many summer jobs do not have the same training component as an internship, they can teach you a lot.
Taking a class or two is a great way to boost your GPA, or perhaps get a few credits out of the way early.
Relax and reflect
Yes, a vacation. Time away from school. A break. Particularly after first year, this can be a lifesaver. The first year of college can be intense. For some, it’s the first time away from home.
Finding new friends, learning a new city, perhaps even dealing with a low test grade or two…it can all be draining. If there is any summer where one can benefit from taking time to reflect and just relax, it’s that first one. Reconnect with friends in your hometown. Go on a vacation with your family. Take time to reflect on the year. What went well? What didn’t? What will you do differently next year? What are you looking forward to in the second year? Use this time to recharge and focus on the year ahead.