Any level of college student will most likely agree that the long summer break is much needed after a hectic year of lab reports, presentations, group projects, papers, exams, annoying neighbors or roommates; the list of stressors goes on and on!  Although the summer can be relaxing and fun, it also brings on new stressors.  To name a few, there is adjusting to moving back in with the parents, finding a summer job to pay for your expensive college lifestyle, coordinating visits with college friends, finding ways to boost your resume, and fitting in some fun!  So how do you make your summer a perfect balance of fun and productivity?  As a graduating Senior with only 16 days left of her college career, I like to believe that I have at least some insight on how to make the most of summer breaks!  Here is some of my advice:

  1. Take two weeks to recover!  I know you are itching for some rest and relaxation, so just indulge!  Sleep in until 2:00 PM for a straight week, take a weekend road trip with some friends to the beach, devote an entire day to vegging out on the couch with a book or watching a marathon of your favorite program (I suggest GOT or The Walking Dead, because they are awesome).  You deserve some time to relax!  It is important to unwind your mind and body so that when you do execute some productive summer tasks, you are doing so with a clear mind.  Be warned, however, that two weeks could turn into four or eight if you aren’t careful!  You will have time to relax again, so don’t worry.
  2. Be active, no matter how, where, or when you do it.  The summer is a great time to get in shape and explore new exercise activities!  Get some friends together, or go solo, and take a class at the gym like pilates, yoga, zumba, spinning, or join/start a community sports team.  Summer is also a great time to practice water activities like swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, or surfing.  Your body will thank you and your brain will feel relaxed!
  3. Get involved in the community through volunteering.  Volunteer work is a great way to make yourself feel good while helping out your local community and boosting your resume.  I know volunteering may feel like work, but it can be fun!  Get involved in an exciting and enlightening local program like a children’s camp, a firehouse cookout event, a hiking society, or a wildlife preservation organization; the list is endless!  Taking advantage of the copious amount of time the summer gives you and devoting some of it to volunteering will serve a dual purpose of giving you energy and testing your smarts, while simultaneously improving your resume.  No matter where you live, there are always programs that need your help!
  4. Try something completely new to you.  Whether this new something is a dare-devil activity like sky diving or zip lining, or a less physical activity like cooking or trying oysters for the first time, go do it!  It is important to use some of your free time over the summer to explore new boundaries and try something you never have before.  Challenging your fears will help you learn something new about yourself, and may develop into a new hobby!  Now when the professor asks you to introduce yourself on the first day of class, including something interesting you did over the summer, you finally have something cool to say other than, “My name is…and I just worked all summer”.
  5. Seriously though, get a job!  Whether you are living at home or at school over the summer, you are going to need to have spending and saving money.  You definitely do not want to be asking your parents for cash every time you go out, proceeding with 21 questions about where you are going and what you are spending it on!  And you most definitely want to be saving money for your upcoming college year.  Most, if not all of your friends, will have jobs this summer as well, so don’t worry!  A summer job shows future employers that you are hard working; even better for a resume is a paid summer internship, if you can get one.  If you can’t get a summer internship, look for a fun job that you can you can also apply to your major like being a Nanny or camp counselor, free-lance writing, or serving – just  to name a few.  Summer and college activities cost money, and you will be happy to have your own source of income to support them!
  6. Go to an event with a group of friends, by yourself, or with a significant other.  No matter where you are living over the summer, there are always fun events going on in your area!  Maybe there is a museum of arts, of science, or history that you have been dying to go to that is holding a student ID reduced event; what better time than now to check it out?  Make it a night-out and attend a play or concert with a significant other, because honestly, when was the last time you went to either?  Summer is a great time to attend an outdoor beer or wine festival (if you are over 21) or sporting event; the mix of the warm weather and delicious food and drinks is an ideal combination for a great summer day.  I told you there would be time set aside to have some fun this summer!
  7. And then there is time set aside to be productive.  Once a week or so, take some time to sit down and really do some college affiliated activities.  I suggest making a check list at the beginning of the summer, after the two weeks of relaxation of course, so that you know what needs to be done and what has been done.  This should include the easy stuff, like ordering books for class, reviewing class syllabi, shopping for stationary, and cleaning out your computer of old documents.  However, it should also include the hard stuff, like cleaning up your online life (if you are graduating soon, you should be deleting any inappropriate pictures of you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), creating a LinkedIn profile, updating your resume, building a personal website where you are blogging or creatively writing, applying for internships for the fall semester, and anything else that puts you in a better position for the upcoming college year.  Coming from a tried and true procrastinator, believe me when I say you will be less stressed and better off at the end of the summer if you start this list early!
  8.  Find a balance!  I know that this is not an activity, but it is what these combined activities should help you to do this summer. Balancing the fun and not-so-fun activities is the key to achieving a truly successful summer.  Of course, we would probably all love to spend the summer getting tan or playing video games all day like we did during a high school summer (or at least I did!), but we are in college!  We are college students year round, especially during spring break where the professors love to assign 10-20 page papers.  Although summer does not have exams or papers, it is important to remember that you are still a college student and that summer is a great way to boost your college experience.  So, this summer, assign yourself some homework and then award yourself some fun.  Enjoy the summer!

– Natalie Armstrong