What I Did on My Summer Vacation
By Marcy Kraus, dean of freshmen and the Suzanne Jagel O'Brien Director of the College Center for Advising Services
The relief is apparent as students complete their last final exams of the semester. In the rush to leave campus, notebooks, printer cartridges, and random pens and post-its are all tossed into oversized storage boxes to be opened again in late August. Summer vacation is an important time for college students to recharge. But it is also an optimum time to reflect and plan ahead. After spending the first year of college testing initial academic interests, some students will have deepened their academic commitments, others will be searching for new paths, and many will have, at least minimally, a better idea of what they like and what they don't like.
Interested in editing a holistic dog magazine? Know you love physics but don't know what you can “do with it?” Developed a newfound passion for poetry? No longer sure about psychology? Some productive summer activities for all students include:
- Put the plan on paper: list all of the classes needed for a major in X, a minor in Y and a cluster in Z. Then look at the plan with a major in X and a second major in Y and a cluster in Z. Then look at the plan with a major in Y and a minor in X and a minor in Z.
- Consider critical opportunities for growth that can most readily happen in college. That includes independent research, study abroad, a senior thesis or a leadership position in an organization. Note on your plan when and how you might pursue these opportunities.
- Identify two or three faculty members you would like to meet. Develop a list of questions you can ask them. While some faculty may not be available during the summer, others are, and they will be happy to hear from students with an interest in their discipline.
- Imagine what you might be doing five or ten years from now. Contact family and friends and ask for their help in networking with people who have careers and jobs that interest you. Arrange a meeting over coffee to learn more about what they do. Consider how you might volunteer to explore a potential career interest.
- If you're not already participating in an internship, visit the Gwen M. Greene Career and Internship Center (check their website for drop-in hours) and learn what steps to take to be competitive for an internship next summer.
- Who are your mentors? You might already know faculty, staff, family friends, and others who can share their stories and help support your personal development. If not, make it your goal to get to know at least one faculty member each semester of the coming year.
- Learn what credentials will be important for admission to graduate or professional programs you are considering. Identify what courses, grades and experiences you will need to be competitive in the application process.
- Who and what fascinates you? Read for fun this summer—a biography, a book on current affairs, or an autobiography.
Interested in many of these ideas but not sure how to get started? Begin by creating a list of goals with target dates and timelines. Note as well what you hope to gain from these activities. Keep the list in a prominent place and check off items as you go. At the end of the summer, you will be ready to begin the new academic year with a fresh perspective as well as a deeper appreciation of your goals and plans for the coming year.