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4 Smart Things to Do on Your Summer Break From College

Summer means relaxing after a busy year at college, but it's also a good time to learn new skills, get things done, and have fun. See what else you can do here!

What are you doing this summer? This well-meaning question makes most college students cringe. Whether it’s because you don’t have firm plans yet, they’re difficult to explain, or you just don’t want to get into it, it can be a tough query to answer! Summer vacation gives you a lot of free time, but figuring out how to spend it wisely can be difficult. As a college student, you have a wide variety of options. Perhaps you’re planning to study abroad, have a prestigious internship lined up, or—like me—are returning home to work. Regardless of what you’re doing, there are plenty of ways to make the most of summer break, even in your hometown. Here are some game-changing tips to help you get started!

1. Readjust to living at home

Going back home after months away can be challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to reacclimate to your parents’ rules, or maybe you have a difficult relationship with a sibling. The first step to having a great summer break is establishing a good living situation, so take control of what you can to set yourself up for a healthy home life. Have a candid discussion with your parents and other family members about boundaries and expectations, and be prepared to compromise—after all, it’s their house. However, compromise means both parties give a little, so your concerns shouldn’t be disregarded either.

Also be prepared to offer to help around the house—and follow through! Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you should slack off on doing laundry, cleaning up after yourself, and vacuuming occasionally. Trust me, that alone will go a long way. Everything will take time to get used to back at home. Sure, it’s not the same as living with your roommates who are always ready for a milkshake run, but try not to take your family for granted. Whether it’s a weekly family dinner or a board game night, spend some time with them to remind yourself what you love about living at home.

2. Learn new life skills

As you move toward graduation and start adult life, there are some key skills that you need to be proficient in. You may have experience in some or all of these, but summer is a great time to learn more about the basics of adulting; you have time to learn and practice, and your parents are around to answer questions if you need help. Here are the big skills to pick up:

  • Cooking: When I say cooking, I don’t mean the art of using a microwave and heating up frozen dinners. Try to do some real cooking this summer; you might even discover that you have a knack for it! If you need some recipe inspiration, check out Martha Stewart’s “20 Recipes Every 20-Something Should Learn to Cook.
  • Budgeting: Hopefully you’ve learned the basics of managing money. However, there’s a big difference between managing money in college and managing money post-grad. Learning more about budgeting, saving for retirement, and your savings and investing options now can save you stress (and money) later.
  • Sewing and ironing: These may sound like random skills, but if you’ve ever had a seriously wrinkled shirt or a button pop off at an inopportune moment, you’ll know they come in handy. The other great news? Neither one takes that long to get the hang of.
  • Car maintenance: For basics, take your car to the mechanic for an oil change, tire rotation, or inspection. Just like calling the doctor for your own appointment, scheduling and taking care of your own car maintenance is an important life skill. You can even advance your skills by learning how to do basic car maintenance yourself, like changing your oil, putting air in your tires, and changing a spare tire. (A quick note of caution: If you learn how to jump-start a car, be very careful as it can have extreme consequences if you mess up.)

Related: 10 Ways to Prepare Now for a Great Life After College

3. Engage in summer learning, preparation, and certifications

Summer is an excellent time to take care of all those extra things you didn’t get to during the academic year to prepare for the future. While none of these are wildly riveting, getting these tasks out of the way before the next school year will have you thanking yourself later.

  • Study for entrance and certification exams: Depending on your field, you may be facing the LSAT, MCAT, PRAXIS, GRE, or something else to qualify for graduate school or your career field. Double down on those practice tests and review books, and maybe even take the exam this summer if the opportunity presents itself. Committing to even 30 minutes of studying a night is more doable during the summer than a hectic semester.
  • Get certified in your field: Get additional certifications your advisor recommends. For example, if you’re a Public Relations or Marketing major, consider taking a free HubSpot Academy course to set yourself apart and refine your knowledge. You could even renew or take a First Aid training class, a valuable general life skill to have.
  • Polish your LinkedIn profile and résumé: When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn? Review your profile as well as your résumé and see if there are any changes to make: adding an award in your field or maybe updating your GPA. These are little things that’ll take weight off your mind when you return to school next semester.

4. Have some fun!

Ah, the section you thought we’d never get to. While it’s good to be responsible and productive with your time, don’t forget that summer break also exists to give you time to rest and enjoy yourself. Here’s a brief, non-exhaustive list of fun things to do this summer:

  • Get outside: Whether it’s swimming, tennis, biking, kayaking, hiking, camping, or something else entirely, just get out there! Enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise, and boost your mood for a better mindset when you return to school.
  • Read for fun: Take advantage of finally having a break from required reading assignments and endless paper-writing to read that new book everyone is talking about or catch up on some old classics.
  • Try some new hobbies (or pick up old ones): Learn a new musical instrument or try playing that old guitar you haven’t touched in years. Pick up a language you’ve always wanted to learn or start an art project you’ve been dreaming of doing. Get creative and get inspired.
  • Catch up with old friends: Sure, you may feel closer to your college pals right now, but there’s a special bond you’ll always share with your childhood friends. Spend some time with them this summer and visit your old hangouts.
  • Take a weekend trip to visit a friend: If you live within driving distance of a college friend, pick a weekend and go visit! One of my favorite parts of college has been making friends who live in towns all over the country. If your friends live a bit further than an easy drive, consider finding a town halfway between and meeting in the middle.

Related: How to Prepare for Your First Summer After Freshman Year of College

By now, you probably agree that there are plenty of things to do this summer, but that doesn’t mean that you need to do everything. At the start of your break, make some loose goals and plans to keep yourself aware of your priorities, but beyond that, focus on relaxing and enjoying this time to rejuvenate yourself before the new semester.

Winning scholarships is another smart way to spend some time this summer. Find awards you’re eligible for using our Scholarship Search tool.

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About Laura Wallace

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