Top Five Ways to Spend Your Summer at College

With spring semester coming to an end in May, college students might already be thinking about how to spend their summer. While hometowns and the beach may beckon, some of the greatest summer opportunities are available in their flourishing college towns.

Here are five reasons to stay at college during the summer:

1. Take extra classes—Whether you stay on your own campus or take advantage of a campus in your hometown, taking classes during the summer is a great way to get ahead, boost a GPA, or concentrate on a harder curriculum in a more comfortable setting.

There are fewer obligations during the summer, and the extra time may be perfect for tackling tough subjects. Summer also gives you an opportunity to take classes that are hard to schedule during the academic year.

UT’s summer sessions offer options from general education courses to a few upper-level online courses are offered. Incoming students, current students, and students visiting for the summer from another school can easily obtain college credit that will help them reach their educational goals.

Sculpture major, Anthony Parrott, interned at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Most schools offer a variety of classes. Talk to a university advisor or browse your college’s website to find information.

2. Get a job or internship—Even if you don’t want to take classes, universities and college towns are great places to look for jobs or part-time internships. Many colleges offer a career center that can help you find jobs and internships in your field.

“Completing internships is one of the best ways students can develop the skills and experiences employers seek,” said Stephanie Kit, director of UT’s Center for Career Development.

“Additionally, internships allow students to test their career goals by gaining first hand experience. Many internships lead to full-time job offers and allow students to build a valuable network of contacts in their fields.”

Not only will internships set you apart in the job market, but they will help you realize what you don’t like to do. Internships teach transferable skills and real-world experience that you would not obtain in the classroom.

3. Study abroad—Global learning experiences can enhance learning beyond the classroom. There are many different types of study abroad opportunities available, and summer is the most popular time to go. Students can take classes abroad, participate in service-learning abroad, conduct research, or do an internship in a foreign country.

Archaeology student Coral Thayer took a trip to Jordan during the summer of 2015.

Participating in study abroad will set you apart from your peers and give you a global perspective in your industry.  Different colleges offer different programs, so visit the study abroad office to learn more about your options.

“Education abroad is a transformative experience that has demonstrated positive impacts on the academic and professional careers of students,” said Noah Rost, director of UT’s Programs Abroad Office. “Students should not ask themselves if they can afford to have these types of experiences. Instead, they should ask themselves if they can afford not to.”

Scholarships are often available through specific programs and online to help pay for study abroad.

4. Conduct research—Trying to get into graduate school? You can apply for funding to do summer research with faculty members at your school. Working with a team of other students and faculty is a great way to immerse yourself in a field and have the opportunity to become published.

Engineering student, Brandy Manka, participates in the storm water analysis project at Second Creek.

Many students participate in research experiences to explore their passion. Research allows you to marry a favorite hobby with your major. Don’t think engineering and paintball mix? You can conduct research in materials science about what goes into making paintballs.

According to Marisa Moazen, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at UT, research can set students apart from their classmates.

“Summer is a great time for students to take a deep dive into a research project,” she said. “Not only are they seeing the practical application of their studies, but they can also gain valuable skills for their career or graduate school. Students’ prior success in research is a predictor of graduate school success.”

Like other summer options, research experience gives you an edge in interviews and looks great on a resume when applying for graduate school. Research experience can also help you learn how to communicate effectively, become better at time management, and hone your technical writing skills.

5. Soak up the local culture—Use the summer to learn more about the many things your college town has to offer. In Tennessee, there are great opportunities to attend music festivals, visit museums or amusement parks, and explore the great outdoors.

Many cities have visitor’s centers that offer lists of events, dining options, and other fun things to do around town. Through Visit Knoxville, visitors and residents alike can find something fun happening in town on any given day. Their site has listings of hundreds of things to do, from shopping guides to Knoxville food tours.

Whatever your interests, there is bound to be something happening in your town during the summer.