Q: It is almost June, and my daughter will be coming home from college. How can I guide her to use the summer months to prepare for her future?
A: As a college dean, I encourage students to look at summer break as an opportunity to build skills and explore interests that there isn’t time for during the school year. The first decision your daughter needs to make is whether she wants to find a job or internship, or take classes.
It is important to have at least one internship before graduating college. Employers say that internship experience is one of the first things they look for when they are hiring new graduates. Internships provide practical experience which one can’t get in a classroom, and they enable students to become better prepared for the workforce. Recently, even graduate schools have begun looking for this experience in their applicants.
Even more importantly, internships offer an opportunity to try out a career field to see if it really is a good fit. For example, your daughter may enjoy her psychology classes but find that working in a mental health clinic is not for her. This experience might lead her to explore an area she wouldn’t have previously considered, like industrial psychology, for example. Figuring this out while still in college can her save months or years of deciding on a career path later on.
Sometimes, finding an internship is difficult for college freshmen. If your daughter can’t find a good internship, she may also consider volunteering. She can volunteer at an interesting organization which relates to her interests and helps her stand out from peers at job interviews or graduate school applications.
Taking classes is another great option for students who want to earn extra credits and graduate more quickly. This option requires careful planning. Your daughter needs to make sure her college will give her credit for the course she takes. It is also important to choose a class that that fits well within the short summer timeframe. There is typically less time to complete a course in the summer, so something like a time-consuming science lab could be challenging.
Of course, school credits are not the only reason to take classes. The summer is a great opportunity to explore a special interest that doesn’t fit in the schedule during the school year. Want to learn photography or coding? There are great classes online in every topic imaginable. Look at Coursera, Khan Academy, LinkedIn or Code Academy to get started. These classes can be taken in the evenings or anytime they fit into one’s schedule.
Summer break is an important time to supplement and deepen one’s college experience, and to lay the foundation for a rewarding career or for graduate school.