The summer before senior year is a confusing one. It feels really serious, loaded with responsibility and the ticking time bomb that is graduation, but also nostalgic, making you want to throw caution to the wind and take advantage of the one last year you have to be a dumb college student.
As great as that second part sounds, it would be a terrible way to spend this summer. Yes, it is your last chance to be ~free~ but it’s also your last chance to bulk up your resume and prepare for what lies ahead (dun dun dunnnn). But the good news is- you can find a happy medium. This summer I’m taking classes, I have an internship, and I’m planning on having fun too! It is possible! (Probably, I haven’t tried it yet).
Get a Summer Internship
I can’t stress this one enough. I was lucky enough to be put in a position by my school to have an internship my Junior year, and without it, my resume would be lacking a huge draw for employers. They like to see that you can work an 8 hour day in a professional office, holding down a job that isn’t working at a boutique or at as a babysitter. And that you’re willing to do so without getting paid.
Now, some internships will pay you, and if you can find one of those scoop it up as fast as you can, because I guarantee you every other kid in your major is going after it too. But don’t make getting a paid a priority (if you can manage it- not everyone can afford to work unpaid). I had the best experience of my life last semester working for a non profit, and I didn’t get paid. If I’d passed it up for another paid offer, I would have really regretted it- because it taught me something really important. Here it is:
The best places don’t need to pay their interns, because there are enough young and minimally experienced people willing to work there for free.
You passing up that opportunity (assuming you really could afford to work there for free) is getting you a one way ticket to a really crappy office with a boss who probably can’t help you in the long run, because they don’t get enough traction in the intern-search without offering a stipend. Go for the free internship. You’ll be glad you did down the road.
Line up a Job for the School Year
All that free work in the summer is going to leave you pretty broke, and you graduate in a year! You need a decent savings account! So, now it’s time to line up a job. I recommend working somewhere related to your field, if you can. Other generic-but-still-good-for-the-resume-jobs are working for the university (i.e: alumni affairs, tutoring, giving on campus tours, IT, …), waitressing (this can open the door to a lot of buzzword skills!), and freelance writing (tons of people manage to do this from home, and it’s very flexible).
And, again, remember that the point of this job is to save money! No matter how hard that is to do! If I can get my shopping addiction under control, I believe every one of you reading this can too.
Perfect your Application Trio
- Keep it to one page
- Take off anything from high school. Unless you’re a national merit scholar, it isn’t important. I mean it, take off the letterman jacket, put away your old trophies, and get some experience out of college.
- Try not to clutter it up too much, but take up the space that you can.
- Colorful headings might make yours stand out in a sea of all black and white resumes. But, no neon or crazy colors. Stick to darker, basic colors like green, blue, red, or orange.
And here are some good resources for words to use and more tips on formatting:
- Here’s a list of 185 alternative action words from The Muse
- Here’s a list of words not to use by Monster
- Here’s a list of the good and the bad from Forbes
- Here are some infographics about the psychology of color on resumes by Creative Market
- Resume tips from a top recruiter by Forbes
- Tips and checklists from Resume Genius
Your cover letter should always be personalized to the place where you’re applying, but you can definitely put together a generic template that outlines your accomplishments and skills. Then, add a personalized paragraph at the bottom and add a little to the top to make your skills sound more job-specific.
- The Balance has a pretty good template that you can go off of (DO NOT COPY IT WORD FOR WORD DEAR LORD), as well as some tips to writing a generic cover letter.
- CNN has a great article on how to personalize a cover letter to a specific job.
Make sure that just like with your resume, your name and contact information (phone, email, address) are included at the very top. This way if an employer is just leafing through the top of a large stack of applicants, your name will hopefully stick out and they won’t have to waste energy looking for it.
Not all jobs will require you to submit a writing sample, but when they do it’s important to think about why they want to see your writing. Is it a law firm? They’re looking for somebody who can write concise memos outlining a specific issue. Is it a media-related job? You’re going to want to submit an op-ed, or a column of some sorts. Is it an academic or research based job? Submit the intro or the conclusion of a research paper. You get the idea!
This one is going to be really boring and hurt a lot, but you’ll be really grateful you started working on it in your little college bubble when you’re graduated and expected to live like a real adult. I just got chills, horrible.
The most important thing is to set up a saving plan. Some people like to put away $50 or $100 of each paycheck they get, some people like to do half of their paycheck goes to savings and half can be spent. Either way, as long as you’re putting money into your savings account (and the number is going up- no take backs!) it’ll be beneficial.
I personally like the $50 a paycheck deal, because it means I’m putting in $100 a month. After one 5-month semester, that’s $500! And $1,000 by the time senior year is over. Sad, but good for you! That’s a nice little cushion.
Next, you’re going to want to set up a monthly spending plan. The easiest way to do this is track your spending the first month by making a note of literally everything you spend money on- clothes, eating out, groceries, home things, emergency spending,… all of it.
Then, at the end of the month, organize all of the expenses into 5 categories: groceries, going out, clothes, necessities, extra. Groceries is self explanatory, going out includes eating out and alcohol/bars, clothes is self explanatory, necessities are the boring things like toilet paper and toothpaste, and extra is what you have left to round up to the nearest 50 or 100. So if you end up having a budget that totals $320 a month, you get $30 of fun extra money. Woo-hoo, good for you!
(Obviously the amount you allow yourself to spend depends on your income each month, just remember to save!)
Make a Bucket List
For nostalgia purposes, and it’ll make you sad. I made mine by compiling a list of everything I missed about my home school while I was abroad this year (football games, frat parties [lmao], my sorority, being able to lay out by a pool, … , that sort of stuff.
Next, I added things I wanted to do to say bye to my college town and state. For example, I want to go to one of the national parks, go to a major league baseball game, go to the lake, find this giant sunflower field that people randomly take pictures with, … , that sort of stuff.
Now, I’m really excited to be spending the summer before school starts again in my college town, because it means I get a couple of months of free time to really soak it all in before I have to worry about classes and school.
Just like this ↓
Your senior year of college is, unlike your senior year of high school, incredibly sad. You’re going to miss being a regular ol’ undergraduate student so much when you graduate, so it’s really important to take it all in while you still can.
It’s also really important to take time to prepare yourself for the real world that you’re going to be so mercilessly thrown in to the second you graduate. That is, unless you’re one of the lucky ones going to grad school (that’s me!), which will also be nothing like undergrad, and you will definitely still need to prepare because you’re going to be both broke and an adult with responsibilities for a whole 2-6 years.