Best Practices for Your College Summer in the Age of Covid-19

Think back to grade school days. Remember that first day of school when you had to sit in your hot-because-it-was still-summer classroom and write a composition titled “What I did this Summer”?

Wanting to impress your teacher with your summertime educational pursuits, you tried to rebrand the relaxes searches for frogs and four-leaf clovers at your grandmother’s lake house as science experiments, and the summer job checking beach badges as a sociological quest.

Your future employers can’t be fooled as easily.

Spending your summer learning a skill or doing good is very important, but how can college students find a meaningful project, especially this summer when so much is remote?

Educational

Take Classes Online. It can be difficult for a first-year student to get an internship – even before COVID-19, so your student might consider taking a summer class. In years past, this was an excellent way to satisfy a “general ed” or “distribution” requirement, but it is a little trickier this summer, when all the classes have moved on-line. Before paying for a class, be sure to find out if your college will give credit for an online class, because some have decided they will not (which is somewhat ironic, since all colleges finished the spring semester online and said that it was an effective way to learn).

Another opportunity – and a less-expensive choice – is non-credit-bearing courses. Check out MOOC.org (Massive Open Online Courses), Coursera, EdX, and your school’s website. These classes may not give you credit, but they can be an excellent way to learn a skill – think coding! – in a relatively risk-free way.

Before you commit to online classes for the summer, take a look at how you did with them these past few months. Were you able to focus, or did your attention wander? Does a formal classroom experience with its rules and structure suit you better? While colleges are still determining what learning in the fall and beyond might look like, you can decide if you think it’s smart to learn online this summer.

Research. Similarly, you can reach out to a professor about conducting research. Juniors who will be writing an honors thesis can use this time to get a head start on the project, or, for the most enthusiastic writers, even get it completed.

Volunteer

Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience, develop new skills, grow as a leader, and expand your network of contacts. And the greatest benefit? It is so fulfilling to help! There is no shortage of creative, even fun ways that college students can volunteer online.

Check out volunteermatch.org, Generationserve.org, or a non-profit whose mission aligns with your interests or passions. If you are politically involved, consider working for a campaign in a phone bank or as a fundraiser. This is also a great job for a high school student.

Work

Micro-internships. Parker Dewey offers project-based/short timer micro-internships. These give exposure to a wide range of roles with various companies, so you can gain diverse experience and explore different career paths.

COVID-19 Contact Tracers. All states will be hiring Contact Tracers, with some looking to hire as many as 17,000 people. Check out your state’s website for information about how to apply. You will not only be earning money, but helping your state return to a new normal.

Networking. This is a great time to make connections! Alumni contacts can be very helpful to undergraduates. Use your college’s alumni website and LinkedIn to find alum who will share information about their company and their career path. The best advice: don’t call someone looking for a job; instead, call looking for information. Knowledge is priceless, and you never know where the conversation will lead.

Speaking of LinkedIn, work on your digital profile for this site and other professional networking sites.

Future employers will be interested in seeing that you use your summers for skill development, whether you are honing your technical skills by mastering Excel and coding, building up your research skills, or studying tools for more effective communication.

While you may have to tweak the in-person experience you were planning for this summer, there are plenty of opportunities to parlay your summer break into a fulfilling project that will not only help you define what you want to study and/or do with your career, but will make you more marketable to future employers.

And you will still have plenty of time to hunt for frogs when you visit the lake.