For college students, summer break presents the opportunity to get some much-needed downtime, hang out with friends from high school, and earn some money for school. The start of the fall semester is not far off, however, and with it will come the return of classes and exams. Students who use the rest of their summer wisely will be rewarded with a much smoother start to the school year. Here are some things to do that don’t take too much work.
Do a Career Sanity Check
With final exams a faded memory, this is an excellent time to revisit a student’s career-related trajectory. Away from the pressure of classes, jobs and on-campus social life, your student can consider whether his or her major is the right one. Do some research on hiring trends and the outlook for the related industry. If feelings have changed, know that although changing a major often involves taking extra time or having to take additional classes to graduate, it is not necessarily a bad decision. In fact, the majority of college students change their major at some point.
Confirm Financial Aid
The basics of financial aid have not changed much over the past couple of decades. College students fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a few scholarship applications, and perhaps try to secure some private loans as needed. However, one big change is just around the corner: Students will be able to file a 2017-18 FAFSA starting this Oct. 1 instead of Jan. 1, 2017. So it might be wise to gather information before plunging into the fall semester workload. Also, for fall semester aid, sometimes clarification or special paperwork is required to get the money. The student should check on the status of all financial aid before classes begin so there are no unpleasant surprises when tuition comes due. Make sure to send thank-you notes to the committees for all scholarships received, and sign up to get information about scholarships for next school year.
Research Your Professors
Anyone who has attended more than a few college classes knows that a professor’s approach and personality make a huge difference in how the class plays out. Unfortunately, by the time school starts, there really is not enough time to get a sense for how the professor works. Advance research is the perfect project for the final weeks of summer, right after registration for classes. Encourage your college student to browse through future professors’ curriculum vitae, read reviews of their classes, and check out department websites for syllabi and other course information. If you live near the school, visiting the professors before school starts is a great way to establish familiarity and start the school year off on the right foot.
Test Out of College Classes
You can probably remember sitting through classes that felt like a complete waste of your time because you already understood the subject matter. It is also a waste of money for your student to sign up for classes in subjects they already have mastered. The student should find out whether the college accepts credits by examination, and check out the subjects available for testing. The College-Level Examination Program offers testing at 1,800 centers nationwide, and some institutions have their own systems. If your student can bypass a class or two, graduation is that much closer.
Consider Future Opportunities
It is all too easy to develop a sort of tunnel vision in college, where the heaviest focus is on the next due date and graduation is the major milestone. In truth, college graduation is just one step in the long process of finding a career in the industry. One of the best ways to test out the field and develop some real-world experience is through an internship. The National Association of Colleges and Employers notes that 75 percent of employers expect new graduates to have some form of industry work experience. As a result, 65 percent of 2015 graduates participated in an internship. Paid internships are generally preferred over unpaid ones. In either case, the experience gives your student a better sense of what to expect in their field, and a chance to develop some contacts they can use after graduation.
While your student is in his or her college years, summer break really ought to be a break. However, just a little work to put plans in order in advance of the coming school year can save a lot of stress, and even some time and money.
Alison Blankenship works in the marketing department at TextbookRush, a company for college students that makes it possible for them to rent and sell their used textbooks online at great prices.