Congratulations! You made it to the end of another COVID-impacted semester. You’ve had some time to recover from finals and hopefully catch up on some sleep. Now, you’re looking ahead to a blissful 15 weeks’ break from the routine. So, how to make the most of the time? Here are five suggestions to help you make the most of your summer break.
1. Work on Your 5-Year Plan
The summer break can be a great time to look ahead to the future. A 5-year plan is a list of goals – for career, finances, and personal – you’d like to accomplish in that span of time. While it might seem intimidating to contemplate, consider that a 5-year plan is not an iron-clad contract with yourself. Rather, it is a living document that can adapt as you grow and learn. Having a plan in place can help you be mindful as you consider stepping-stone opportunities and decide what to do with your summer. Writing down goals has also been demonstrated to increase the likelihood of achieving them.
2. Take a Summer Class
Given this is a post about summer break, it might seem counterintuitive to talk about going back to class. However, summer classes can be a good option for students who want to meet a basic requirement, take an elective that is offered infrequently, or create some wiggle room in their degree plan.
At WT, many summer classes are offered online, so it is not necessary to stay near campus. Summer classes cover the same amount of material as a full semester class, but in a condensed, roughly 5.5-week format. If you plan to take a summer course, be aware that these courses can feel intense while you are in the middle of them. It is necessary to plan time in your schedule to keep up with course requirements. On the other hand, because it is condensed, the course is also over relatively quickly.
At the time of this post, there’s still time to register for both Summer 1 and Summer 2 classes. It is possible to receive financial aid for summer classes. Federal student loans usually require registering for at least half-time enrollment. In the summer, this is six credits hours, or two classes. The Financial Aid office can assist you with any financial aid questions.
A note on Study Abroad
The pandemic has put a pause on Study Abroad programs, but when conditions are safe these programs should hopefully resume. Study Abroad can be a great way to get course credit and travel internationally at the same time. You know that old expression “have your cake and eat it too”? Study Abroad is like that. If that sounds appealing, it’s never too soon to start researching. The PVECOB has historically sponsored faculty-led study abroad trips at the very beginning of summer break in May, before the start of the Summer 1 term. Below is a video created by Media Minds about the last PVECOB Study Abroad trip in Summer 2019.
3. Complete a certification or workshop
OK – so this is another tip about learning, but stick with me. Unlike a formal college class, certifications are typically self-paced. They result in a professional “stamp of approval” from the entity offering the certification. The result is a nice line for your résumé that demonstrates to potential employers that you possess a specific professional skill. Certifications are a great way to show, not just tell, about your skills during the job application process.
You may have already encountered a requirement to complete a certification as part of a class. For example, in MKT 4343 students complete a digital marketing-related certification. Although having to do a certification for a class can be an important external motivator, it’s certainly not the only context in which you can complete one. Each certificate varies in its complexity and requirements, but many can be completed for free in 20 hours or less. If you spread that time over the course of a few weeks, completing a certificate over the summer break is very do-able and demonstrates initiative and practical skills. Microsoft offers certifications in various Office programs, Google offers both free certifications and others that require a subscription to Coursera to complete the training. Facebook offers a variety of free training courses, though there is a fee to take the actual certification exam in most cases.
Something else you can do is participate in a workshop. These don’t usually result in a certification but do provide valuable information in a less formal setting. During the summer, when you aren’t feeling the pressures of a regular semester, is a great time to explore university services you might have been interested in but felt too pressed for time to pursue. For example, Career Services is still available to work with students over the summer via online workshops and individual appointments. Now is also a good time to check out the VMock artificial intelligence software to polish up your résumé and get it ready to go for the fall.
4. Work a summer job
Many college students work during the summer to save for school and to help family. While internships are always a great idea, any kind of work can pay dividends in developing your transferable skills. In addition to considering a typical part-time job, think about whether a temporary full-time summer job is an option for you. Companies hire temporary workers on a short-term basis, usually to complete a specific project. They are employees of the staffing agency, not the company where they complete the work. Sometimes temporary jobs can lead to permanent positions.
To find these jobs, you’ll usually first need to connect with a temp agency. There are both industry specific and general agencies. Try conducting an internet search for “temp agencies near me.” General temp agencies include Kelly Services, PeopleReady, Robert Half, and others. The recruiter at the agency will interview you, and might ask you to take a few tests that measure skills like typing speed or attention to detail. Then, the recruiter will work to match you with a position.
Temporary and part-time jobs are more than just a source of cash — although that is definitely one reason to consider them. You can also gain transferable skills that will help you in your future, major-related career. We call these transferable skills because they apply to a variety of job types and settings. Desirable transferable skills you can develop through part-time or temp work often include soft skills like reliability, problem-solving, adaptability, communication, and more.
My experience as a temp worker
In case you’re wondering, I practiced what I’m preaching here. I worked at three different full-time summer temp jobs over the course of my college student days. I have:
- Assembled high-end digital cameras in a clean room environment (think hairnets, booties over shoes, lab coat, etc.).
- Checked and packed online orders for shipping in a warehouse environment (industrial tape machines are super sticky).
- Reviewed mortgage closing documents for accuracy and prepared files for online account processing at a credit union (they asked me to stay on but I had a PhD program to start).
Each of these gave me opportunities to practice skills like attention to detail, communication, and teamwork.
5. Get Some R&R
Last, but certainly not least, is getting some rest and relaxation. This is important every summer, but especially so now, after a pandemic-impacted academic year. Rest is crucial for maintaining mental health and preparing for the upcoming academic year. Rest reduces stress and refreshes the brain for critical thinking and creativity. While getting proper sleep is an important part of rest, resting can include a variety of mindful practices such as unplugging from electronics, getting out in nature, and more.
Because our lives can be so busy, being intentional about relaxation is often necessary. Relaxation is about making sure to unwind and enjoy the world around you. What this looks like will differ from person to person. Maybe it’s sitting on a porch swing sipping some sweet tea in the evening, or maybe it’s going for a hike in the Palo Duro Canyon. Pick up a new creative hobby, read for “fun,” and spend time with friends and loved ones. Your brain, body, and soul will thank you.
As with many things, when deciding what to do with your summer, moderation is key. Whatever you choose to do, find some ways that work for you to combine meeting personal goals with rest. Hopefully these five suggestions give you some ideas to make the most of your summer break.
Dr. Heidi Huntington
Assistant Professor of Business Communication