Should You Take the Summer Off After Graduating?

What to do after graduating college is a decision that we all face when the final semester of the best four years of our lives quickly comes to an end (I’m not crying, I swear).

We don’t have that many options of what to do at the end of that last semester: we can jump head first into the “real word” of jobs and fending for ourselves, we can go right back to school, or we can take the summer off (or any following months after you walk across that stage, but for the sake of this article, I’m just going to call it summer).

For those of you who didn’t even think twice about jumping into the job pool after graduation, hear me out. Both options are viable, but I want you to step back from thinking that’s what you have to do, and figure out if that’s what you really want to do. After all, people keep telling me, “You’re going to have the rest of your life to work,” and they’re right.

Unless you’re going into the education field (bless those of you who are, because we need more teachers), you’re never going to have the summer off again, until like, retirement, and that’s a long way away. This may be the last summer you can just be and not have to worry about working 9-5.

Taking the summer off or hitting the ground running in your dream field each have their own set of pros and cons, and I’m going to break those down.

Taking the summer off

Pros:

  • Travel, travel, travel: As soon as you enter the real world and start having to report to a boss, you no longer get the chance to just get up and go wherever, whenever. With adult jobs, you have to ask for days off in advance for vacation, and you only technically have two weeks of vacation days a year. By taking the summer off, you get to release your inner Bilbo Baggins and go on an adventure simply because you can.
  • Relaxation vacation: You just spent the last four years of your life in a constant state of studying and stressing. You deserve to relax, to chill, to not have anything you have to do.
  • Continue learning who you are: Granted, at this point you probably know who you are for the most part, but with nothing else to keep you distracted and busy, this time off might be the perfect time for you to figure out who you are in life outside of school.
  • You’ll have more time to find your perfect job: Yeah, you can look for jobs while you’re still in school, but by giving yourself a few more months where you have literally nothing to do will allow you to spend more time finding the ideal entry-level job for you.
  • Less competition in the fall: Though this seems like the coward’s way out, it’s not. Competition in the workplace is real, and you’re going to have to work your way up, but it’s easier to do that when there’s fewer people around trying to knock you down.

Cons:

  • You may fall behind: Every field has a pool of new applicants applying for a variety of positions in companies around the world. Although starting a job isn’t like school in the sense that you can fall behind on the material, you will lose time during which you would’ve been gaining more experience. When you start working in the fall, all the people from your same graduating class will already have been working in the company for a few months and may have that advantage over you.
  • It may look bad: Depending on which field you’re going into, taking time off between graduation and when you start working may cause people to look down on you. Some employers frown upon that gap because they feel you were just sitting around with idle hands, not doing anything.
  • You lose the connections from your college: One of the most beneficial things about colleges and universities is that they have some form of a career resource center. The people who work at these centers can connect you with employers in your field to help you get a job or internship during or after college. If you take the summer off, you could lose those resources. 

Jumping right in:

Pros:

  • The real world is apparently more fun than we’ve heard: You get to do whatever you want to do - after work, of course. You want to go home right after work, shower, get in bed and watch Netflix? You can! You want to go out for drinks casually during happy hour? You can! You want to wander around your new neighborhood? You can do that, too!
  • It looks good: Employers will think you’re extremely motivated if you start looking for a job before even graduating.
  • You get a feel for your field right away: Yes, you just spent the last four years of your life figuring out what you want to do, but hey, sometimes once you’re in the actual field you see it’s not what you want (hopefully that’s not the case). If you jump right in to your field after graduation, you can see if the last four years accurately showed you what you really want to do. 
  • Start paying off your loans: If you had to take out loans to get through college, you'll want to pay those off as soon as possible, so starting to work right away will help you pay those off quicker.

Cons:

  • You’re going to work for the rest of your life: Why start now when you can start in three months?

As for me, I’m kind of doing something in the middle. I’m applying to a couple of jobs that really interest me, and if I don’t get them, I’ll take the summer off, and then apply to others as the summer goes on. It’s a happy medium.

One piece of advice: if you choose to go home and take some time off, make sure you bring an exit strategy with you. It’s very easy to get comfortable at home and stay there. Don’t let that happen to you. You spent too much time and energy to make sure you would get out of your parents’ home eventually, and comfort shouldn’t change that.

Whether you take the summer off, go back to school or jump right in to the workplace, you’re going to be okay. There is no right or wrong decision.

Trust yourself. Trust your decision-making. Trust that you will make it either way.