You’ve perfected your resume. You’ve sent out countless emails and manila envelopes displaying your wit and enthusiasm to the companies and organizations of your choice. Applying for internships is almost as nerve-wracking as applying for college; deadlines, anticipation, triumph and sometimes disappointment.
But suddenly, midterms roll by, the sun makes its anticipated return to campus and you find yourself waving at your senior friends as they walk across the graduation stage. As your parents come to pick you up and pack the car with the full contents of a dorm room, you realize: none of your internships got back to you! Now what?
Hopefully, like the resourceful collegiette that you are, you’ve avoided this scenario by means of great preparation. But even if this is your dilemma or worse, you haven’t even applied to any summer internships, breathe. In a highly competitive world, it may seem like you need to intern as early and often as possible, but not getting a summer internship is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s literally the beginning, both of your summer and your thought process on how to spend your summer. Here are some tips to get you brainstorming.
Think of this as your leisure time. You’ve worked hard all year. Some R&R is much deserved, and if that R&R is in a foreign place, your mind will be still be in “school mode.” You’ll be continuously learning and absorbing the culture as opposed to just lounging around at home in the same setting all the time. Check with your school’s study abroad program to see what destinations are offered. If the destinations don’t fit your budget or your travel interest, try one of the many student travel companies like Contiki Vacations.
Stick around and make more connections:
Once it hits May, your school doesn’t just shut its doors for the summer. It keeps running just like the well-oiled machine you pay to go to. Take advantage of the opportunities, especially the hidden ones, on your campus.If you know that the only thing waiting for you back home is what you left, and that isn’t much, consider staying on campus to work in admissions, alumni relations or events management for the summer, assist a professor with a project or even lead summer tours. Take some advice from Jenni Whalen, a senior at Bucknell University.
“I opted to do research with a professor from my university while also working part-time in the admissions office. I actually ended up having the best summer EVER and I never would have expected it! My campus is pretty small and people pretty much stick to their same groups of friends. Because it was the summer, there were very few people on campus so I was able to meet people that I never would have run into during the year.”
And putting that you stayed on campus in place of getting an internship for the summer shows your dedication and maturity level rather than a lack of planning. Campus jobs tend to free up in April because people are getting ready to go home, so inquire with your student employment office or the direct departments you’re looking to work in.
Take a summer class:
Although spending more time in a classroom sounds like the last thing on your mind, summer classes are often more concentrated and lenient with grading policies and they can help you prioritize your time for semesters ahead. Harvard College sophomore Danai Kadzere has the right idea. “I'm taking physics this summer—that way, I get both semester requirements out of the way at once and can focus on just that one (hard!) class.”
Summer classes can be taken on your campus, online or a community school near your home like Kenyon College sophomore Sarah Kahwash did. “I spent last summer doing an intensive language program at Middlebury and learned an incredible amount of French in just seven weeks. And even if it's not a program targeted at a specific subject, it's nice to be able to focus on just one or two classes and get some required credit out of the way”.
Stephanie Hicko, a Hofstra University assistant dean at the Center for University Advisement, also advocates getting ahead in credits for your minor. “Many people forget about their minor credits until senior year, but if you get your course hours in early, it leaves you for more flexibility as an upperclassman.”
Check with your school to see which classes can be taken at outside colleges, since some places require your take all major or core classes in house, for example.
Learn a new skill:
Leisure time is nice, but three months of nothing gets old after about three weeks. The mind becomes just as restless if it left neglected as if it is overworked. Spending your time trying something new will not only provide you with a skill set you’ve never had time to learn before but give you the unique memory of “remember the summer… ”
And since the weather is so beautiful, this is the time that you have full range to think outside the box. Take surf lessons. Participate in a “Shakespeare in the Park” production. Go camping and build a fire from scratch. Learn to hike mountains, fish or windsurf. Make the calls, recruit your friends if you want and make it happen.
Work, work, work:
It’s not a glamorous option, but if your bank account was seriously depleted over the last semester and you have no set plans for the summer, it gets the job done (get it?).
There’s nothing wrong with hustling by working two or three jobs in the summer, like Erin Nemeth did.
“Last summer, I couldn't get an internship because I did a five-week summer abroad, so I worked two jobs when I got back to the states to make money and focus on finding an internship for the fall.”
Local work at summer camps, pools and beaches, life guarding and park maintenance fill up fast. If you’re looking to snag a position indoors like waitressing or in retail, don’t write that you’re looking for seasonal work on your application. If a company thinks they can keep you for a long time, you’re more likely to get hired. Or you could use your image as a ‘serious college student’ and tutor younger neighbors in everything from Math and Science to SAT prep. Since you’ve been through all these tests, the parents will see you as a reliable source of help. If the neighborhood kids don’t need help, apply to be a professional tutor with chain learning centers like Kumon or Sylvan.
But remember to keep in mind you still have to make time to relax with friends and family. Personal days are required.
Give back with community service:
If you’ve been striving for A’s all semester, a community service activity is the perfect release because it involves just doing work for the sake of good with no reward attached other than your self-satisfaction.
If you want to stay close to home, you can think globally and act locally. For example, hold a 5K dog-walking marathon in late May (which is National Pet Month) and donate all the proceeds to the American Humane Society. Or you could mimic the annual Jimmy Fund Scooperbowl in Boston and hold a sundae making party on National Ice Cream Day (July 15, 2012), donating your profits to the charity of your choice.
Making the most of your months off is key to rejuvenating your mind and body. Choose your activities wisely and don’t waste the opportunity of time before you just because you didn’t land an internship. Work your body and mind on your own terms and appreciate the freedom for what it’s worth. Besides, who wants to be in a pants suit in an office building during 80-degree weather anyway?