The following is an excerpt from the book, 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.'
There are some silly and old-fashioned stereotypes that people hold onto when it comes to their image of what a college student is supposed to do during the summer. Some people think that you are supposed to go to your parents' house, maybe get a job in a grocery store and pick your nose till school starts in the fall. That is one of the DUMBEST things you can do with your time.
Time is money, and the summers are a valuable chance for you to do things that are going to make life easier in the long run. Also, if you don't do good things with your summers to prepare yourself for the competition, you may find yourself left behind by your peers when it comes time to get a job. Your TOP PRIORITY during the summer should be to find an internship that will give you some valuable work experience to drop on your resume. This work experience doesn't guarantee you a job, but not having the experience will surely guarantee that you WON'T get a job when you want one.
Getting a good internship after your freshman year is a bit tough. That is when you should consider doing something else, like going to summer school and volunteering for a company. All you want is the chance to associate your name with a strong company, and that can mean a lot for you in the long run. There are programs such as INROADS that help minority students get internships. You also want to check with your career center to try to find something. Start looking in the fall, since these jobs are usually gone by the spring. But if you don't have something by spring, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't keep trying.
The summers should be planned well in advance, not at the last minute. Make your arrangements, and never let yourself get caught in the group of students that have no idea what they are going to be doing for the summer. If you can't find an internship that is suitable, then at least go to summer school. Try to go to school at the same university that you attend during the fall and spring, not at the community college at home or some other place. Transferring your credits back will be a pain. Also, if you are going to school in your hometown, there may be distractions that throw you off track.
If you can't find anything else to do during the summer to build your future, then at least get a summer job. Try to find something that you can add to your resume, and that will also help you pay for school. This way, you are not only making money during the summer, you are also creating opportunities for yourself in the future. The point is that sitting around all summer long is an absolutely horrible idea. Your future is what you make of it, so make it into something good.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a finance professor at Syracuse University and author of 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.' To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered directly to your e-mail, please click here.