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How to Use Summer Break to Plan for Your Future Career or Graduate School

You've worked hard all year and are ready for summer break. I don't blame you. You're right; you should certainly plan time to rest and regroup before the Fall term begins. Spending time with friends and family, reading for pleasure, and taking up hobbies that you haven't had time for are all great summer investments.

Most college students have one or two summer commitments: an internship or job, classes, studying abroad, and research are common experiences. These are awesome, and I hope you are doing at least one of them!

In addition, the summer is an excellent time for focused long-term planning. Whether you plan to enter the workforce or attend graduate school, both pathways require a lot of time-intensive planning and application processes. Spend some time researching and planning a timeline so you are prepared, knock out some of the tasks during summer, and have a manageable process when the academic year starts again in August or September.

Rising Freshman

If you're starting college in the fall, now is the perfect time to think about how you can shape your education to create the type of life you want to lead. As you register for classes and consider majors, keep your long-term goals in mind. Don’t just register for any class that meets after 2 pm and not on Fridays! Using your electives early on to explore your interests and getting involved with related clubs and extracurricular activities will help you narrow down what major and academic path you want to follow and give more meaning to your time in college.

If you are interested in a pre-health pathway (medical, vet, dental, etc.) or law school, there may be a specific advisor or office on campus that works with these students. Look on your college's website to see if there is a specific contact. Sign up for the email list and plan to connect with them during the fall term.

Interested in medical school? Learn about the timeline for application and admission here.

How about law school? Get information about JD, LLM, and other law degrees here.

Rising Sophomore

Workforce-Bound: Heading into sophomore year, summer is a great time to work on transitioning your resume to a collegiate version and creating or updating your LinkedIn profile. This means highlighting your college experience and relevant coursework, projects, or extracurricular activities. Make sure to include any leadership positions you've held or volunteer work you've done (including through Greek or other social organizations), as these can demonstrate your skills, willingness to get involved beyond the surface, and commitment to making a difference.

Graduate School-Bound: If you are planning to attend graduate or professional (medical, dental, law, PA, vet) school, research experience is imperative, and you can definitely start as a second-year student. If your college has an Undergraduate Research Office, spend some time on their website. There may be a database you can search for research opportunities and you can learn about other ways to get involved with research. Also, consider the faculty you might want to work with as a research assistant. Research their faculty bios online and prepare messages you can send when the fall term begins (don't send over the summer - most faculty aren't even checking email). For medical school and some other professional programs, shadowing and volunteering are also critical to being a competitive candidate.

Rising Junior

Workforce-Bound: Internships are critical to gaining real-world experience and making valuable connections in your industry of interest. Many companies start recruiting for summer internships as early as the fall semester, so rising juniors should take the downtime over the summer to begin researching potential internship opportunities. Visit your school’s career center webpage and note important dates, including career fairs, workshops, etc. Most schools use Handshake to connect students and employers and allow students to search for career opportunities. Log on and look around to familiarize yourself with how the platform works. And if your resume and LinkedIn profile need attention, now is the time to ensure everything is updated and ready.

Graduate School-Bound: If you haven't done research yet, don't panic - you can start now! See the sophomore advice above for learning about research options at your university. This is also a good time to research different programs of study, whether you might want to pursue a master's degree or doctorate, and the typical admissions requirements and timeline. Once you have done this work, you are ready to create your personalized timeline so you stay on track with applying to various programs. You are halfway through college so the timing is important now. Keep in mind that you may need to take standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, or LSAT that require months of preparation.

*NOTE: Medical school deadlines are typically earlier than other programs. The application typically opens in May, so you can start at the end of junior year on your application.

Rising Senior

Workforce-Bound: The job search should be at the top of your mind as a senior. This summer is the perfect time to prepare for what's to come. Are you thinking about applying for jobs in a few different industries? Review your resume and consider whether creating a couple of different versions tailored to the various types of jobs makes sense. Practice writing cover letters specific to each industry, and make templates you can easily tweak and tailor for each application. Finally - polish up your interviewing skills! Use the internet to develop some typical interview questions in your field, and practice answering them in front of a family member, friend, or even the mirror.

Graduate School-Bound: You have one year left! This summer is a great time to start on applications, identify who you will ask the write letters of recommendation, write required essays and resumes, and visit campuses as you're able. Graduate program deadlines vary so make sure you have researched them carefully. Some programs may require an interview or campus visit as part of the admission process, which likely takes place in the fall.


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