Your Summer To-Do List

to-do list pad, image courtesy of courtney dirks on flickr

(image via Courtney Dirks)

The summer is when students finally get to slow down, especially if you’ve just finished your first year of college or are a sophomore. Finals are over, even summer school may be over. All you have is part of July and August, and gloriously lazy days at the beach until school starts back up. And you aren’t nearly as stressed as rising juniors or seniors who are closer to graduation, and more pressed to find jobs. You actually get to kick back!

However now is also the time you should add the following four things to your to-do list. And they won’t wreck your beach schedule, in fact at least one thing in this listicle will take all of five minutes. But the results can be long lasting and in your favor.

Research Internships
There was a time when you had to go into the college career office and sift through job boards, the physical kind, with tiny type or handwritten notes. It SUCH was a commitment of time and effort.* Now? Get on the web. From wherever you are, perhaps that chair at the beach right next to your refill and the sunblock. Unless you’re somehow away from your smartphone or actually off the grid?

If you're going to take the phone to the beach, you can take a couple of minutes to do some research. (image via Striderp64/Flickr)

If you’re going to take the phone to the beach, you can take a couple of minutes to do some research, right? (image via Striderp64/Flickr)

Find out what’s out there. And find out what’s required for you to get an internship next summer. Internships are still a place where you go to learn. But can you give yourself an edge? Would you be a more attractive candidate for a competitive internship if you’ve done certain course work or learned some skills (like coding or specific computing programs)?

If you find out now, you have at least six months to fill any gaps.

Test Dates
Perhaps you already know that you want to go to law, medical, or business school. They all have entrance tests. Do you know when they are being held in your area? If you’re an international student, do you need to plan further ahead than students State-side to prep, take, or pay for them? Now would be a good time to find out. And don’t kid yourself, people do read up, and sometimes cram for these. Very few people go into the GRE, the GMAT, the LSAT, or the MCATs without some prep—international students especially. And it’s not unheard of to take entrance exams late in junior year before retaking them again in the fall of senior year in case your scores weren’t as high as you wanted them to be.

Big city internship? Big city expenses. Save up early and often! (image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr)

Big city internship? Big city expenses. Save up early and often! (image by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr)

Save Up, Internships Cost Money
It’s true. Paid internships are not thick upon the ground, and in general internships have now become a luxury that are staffed by people who can afford to work for nothing. This is especially true of prestigious positions in power-house and expensive cities like DC or New York City where the experience is invaluable, but pays nothing. It is a huge and controversial problem that locks out talented but less wealthy students, or those who don’t already have the connections. In fact, there is a quiet revolt against unpaid internships in the US.

All that said, in a competitive market, an unpaid internship may be better than none at all because of what you learn and the connections you establish. Which means that if you know you are aiming for an internship that will pay nothing, but will be valuable to you otherwise, get a job, investigate all your financial options, and save so that you can pay for your internship or help your parents pay for room, board, meals, transportation, and student loans. Because bills don’t take a break, do they?

Enjoy The Pause
Perhaps you are lucky enough to need to do none of the above. Or perhaps, despite all your efforts, it isn’t going to work out and an unpaid internship isn’t in your stars. To that we say, enjoy the summer. You are only young once, and you have a lifetime of work ahead. And sometimes the enforced do-nothing period before college allows you that great luxury—the time to think, which, as all working professionals will tell, is something you’ll have to plan into your day the minute you begin working.

(* Yes, that was definitely a joke, in case you were wondering.)