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What Should College Students Do Over Summer?

What Should College Students Do Over Summer?

“What should college students do over summer?”

Get a job? Take an internship?

Maybe, but contrary to what your parents might tell you, getting a summer job is not your only option.

College summer break is a time for renewal, growth, and some relaxation.

It’s also a great time to put yourself in a position to stand out once school starts back up. And it probably takes less effort than you think.

To answer the question “What should college students do over the summer?”, let’s look at 5 things any college student can do over summer that most people never think of.

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5 Things College Students Should Do Over Summer (That You Didn’t Think Of)

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#1. Start a service-based business.

Unless you’ve got a reliable summer job, there’s probably a whole host of benefits to make your summer money working on your own terms.

There’s no reason any college student can’t make $1-2k/month over summer break with their own side hustle.

Start a babysitting, landscaping, pet sitting, or other service-based business. Become a full-time merchant and flip stuff on sites like Craigslist or LetGo.

Pick something you won’t mind doing for 4-8 hours a day. Then start looking for work.

I discovered the power of a side hustle during summer ’17. In 43 days, I made $4,067 mowing lawns, digging trenches, and moving rocks.

Odd jobs saved me from having to get a real job while my business went through a few lean months.

If you take the initiative to find clients, you can find steady work in as little as 2-3 days.

Tips for would-be entrepreneurs:

  1. Make it incredibly easy for people to hire and pay you. Capitalize on the convenience factor by having Venmo, Paypal, and Square cash all set up. You’d be surprised how many older people don’t write checks anymore.
  2. Sell your story. Make sure your neighbors know you are a college student willing to work hard in exchange for money while you’re studying. Don’t milk it, but make sure they know your situation.
  3. Charge what you’re worth. Some people will try to low-ball you because you’re a student. Don’t accept anything less than $15/hour. If you’re a good worker, it’s absolutely reasonable to ask for $25/hour for your time.
  4. Ask clients to spread the word and/or rehire you. You’d also be surprised how many people need the type of help you’re offering. As you’re leaving a job, just mention to them that you’ll be available for work until August/September.

Be sure to add that the fact that you built a business from scratch (with X number of clients and revenue) to your 2018-appropriate resume (see #5).

#2. Read 10 books.

10 books in one summer? I haven’t read a book for fun ever!“, you say.

Maybe so, but there’s no reason you can’t start now.

Part of the reason you don’t read for pleasure probably has to do with how much reading you already do for your classes. Or maybe you just don’t like reading.

Summer is the perfect time to get back into (or start) reading for enjoyment.

And if you’re so inclined, it’s the best time to choose books that will help you grow as a young professional, too.

Set a goal to read 3, 5, or 10 books over summer. The number doesn’t matter so much as the types of books you choose.

I encourage you to not read books about your favorite subjects during college summer break. Instead, read non-fiction books that teach you how to better work with and understand people.

You’ll be doing that for the next 40 years, after all.

You can see my book selections for 10 Books Every College Student Should Read Before Graduation.

I highly recommend them all, but #1 stands alone. I think it should be mandatory reading for all college students.

#3. Get to know yourself better.

Every year of college is like its own island. You’re going to be pushed differently and change as a person a lot over your 4-year college career.

Young people seldom take the opportunity to get to know themselves better- which is 100% to your advantage to do so.

You will stand out from the people you’ll be competing for jobs with.

Employers will see you as someone with clarity, confidence, and an understanding of your skill sets.

One easy (and free) way to understand yourself better is to take the Myers-Briggs personality test on 16personalities.com.

The test takes less than 10 minutes, and for most, is incredibly eye-opening.

The best part about the 16Personalities test is it breaks your personality up into categories like strengths & weaknesses, emotions, romantic relationships, friendshipscareer paths, and work habits.

If you take the test and want to learn more about how your personality might affect your career choice, email me.

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#4. Travel somewhere relevant to your major.

I’m encouraging you to use your college summer break to smartly differentiate yourself from other college students.

Yes, many other students at your school will travel this summer. Don’t be basic like me and go take selfies at the Eiffel tower (for real though, I almost got robbed twice in Paris).

Use your college summer break to visit places that interest you professionally– and eventually, impress people who matter.

Pick a place that creates talking points with your professors in the fall and future employers.

Consider the history, origin, and current affairs of your subject or major. I don’t know your major, so you’ll need to do a bit of Googling.

For example, as a sports science student, I might go to Athens and visit the original Olympic stadium.

A selfie there is worth a lot more than a candid swing picture in Thailand.

If I could do it again, I’d probably use a college student travel program like Student-Athletes Abroad.

Where could you go? If you’re on a budget, check out all the cheap travel resources I came across backpacking Europe for 2 months on $5,000.

#5. Create a 2018-appropriate resume with technology.

Stop listening to old people give advice about the “right way” to write a resume.

Even many college academic success centers don’t have a clue what resumes should look like these days.

It’s actually scary that academic success center employees get paid full-time salaries to teach college students supposed “crucial”-yet completely antiquated- resume building techniques.

The truth is, your first job is probably going to be offered to you by someone between the ages of 30-45. AKA, there’s a 50% chance the person hiring you is a Millennial.

It’s safe to assume your first boss understands and relates to technology.

Guidelines you should follow when writing a resume include keeping it short (1 page), chronologically organized, and thoroughly edited for grammar/spelling. Other than that, make it your own.

Take time during your summer vacation to write a resume that adequately showcases your understanding of technology in 2018.

Some ideas:

  • Create a “video resume“, then upload it to YouTube with a private link. Add this link to your cover letter. (Bonus: you’ll know how many people have reviewed your resume based on how many views the video gets.)
  • Add links to anything relevant that you’ve built online to your resume. Save your resume as a PDF and you’re good to go.
  • Position yourself as one unique thing. You’re not an “aspiring college graduate with interests in humanities”. Well, maybe you are, but no one gives a crap about hiring you. However you choose to present yourself, be authentic, bold, quick to the point (the “listicle” world we live in has even infiltrated the job scene), and honest.

Seriously, look at suggestions #1-4. All of them can go on your 2018-appropriate resume.

Use your new 2018-appropriate video resume to show employers that you’re an INFP-vagabonding-bookworm with entrepreneurial tendencies. Bumble profile or resume header? You decide.

“What should college students do over the summer?”

Find ways to stand out.

Position yourself as uniquely qualified for the job you want when you graduate.

Start a business. Travel. Read. Push yourself in new ways.

Then write a badass resume that showcases what you’ve been up to.

Feel free to party a bit too, but spend your college summer break doing stuff that will benefit you down the road.

3-4 months of summer vacation is a lot of time. Use it wisely.


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If you are a college student or student-athlete and would like to submit a Thursday Q&A, click here. If your question is selected, you’ll be featured on The Coach K Show and receive a $10 gift card to Nike.com.