Choosing Meaningful Experiences for Summer Break

Written by Harsha Ravindran ('24)


With Summer fast approaching, it may seem daunting to start planning what you should do during the upcoming break. Do you apply for an internship? Work a part-time job? Or spend it learning a new skill? We often strive to find a combination of what will be the most enriching experience, look good on our resume or college application, and still be loads of fun.



With a myriad of opportunities ahead, there truly is no right or wrong answer. However, here are some quick tips that may help you balance the three while discovering more about yourself and where you would want your future college life or career to head.



1. Set a Clear Goal and Work Backwards from There.


A common mistake that people often make during their Summer is to try to squeeze in too many things they want to accomplish over one break, only to fail to accomplish everything all at once. One quick tip to prevent this is to set a clear, specific goal of what you want to achieve during the Summer and work backwards from there.


For instance, if your goal is to get experience in a particular field because that is what you wish to pursue in the future, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself which experiences will help you learn most about what field? You may decide to get an internship or apprenticeship to experience the field you want to pursue firsthand. In order to do that, you may decide that you need to start comparing different opportunities and offers to find the best one for you to learn about the industry; hence, you start turning to Google or your school counsellor to discover and compare the available opportunities.


Alternatively, your goal may be to get experiences that would reflect well on your college application. Working backwards from there, you may decide to speak to previous college applications in your first-choice university on what helped them on their application and decide on your summer plans based on that. For more tips on maximizing summer break for your college applications, check out this article. You may even decide that your goal for Summer is to discover what you love doing so that you can focus your efforts on growing your skills and experiences in that area once Summer is done and dusted. In that case, you would take a different approach and try to look for more diverse options based on your interests.


Remember, the more specific your goal is for the Summer, the more specific your outcomes will be!



2. Find something that you love doing.


Though this may seem obvious when looking for things to do over the Summer, but it is vital to keep in mind as you choose between your options. Often when it comes to making decisions, we try to think of what will look the best on our CV or college application instead of what we are passionate about. However, do bear in mind that whatever opportunity you decide on will only be as impactful to your career goals as the effort you put into it. Picking something that you have little to no interest in makes it difficult for you to put your best into it, which will affect the quality of your work and reflect poorly in the end. Your energy could otherwise be spent making the most out of a different opportunity that you are passionate about that would reflect better in the end.



3. Don’t settle - There are many ways to learn a skill.


If you need to learn a skill but aren’t happy with the options presented to you, then keep looking at different approaches on how to learn it in ways that will better resonate with you.


For instance, I have a friend who was told that learning a second language during Summer would help her with applications in the future. While this is sound advice, she is someone who was not a fan of classroom learning. She spent her Summer at a language class unable to grasp what she was learning, having failed to learn how to speak a single sentence by the end of Summer. The following year, she took a different approach and decided instead to intern at a non-profit. Her work required her to communicate with people in a community who did not speak much English. By the end of the Summer, she managed to pick up quite a fair bit of what they were saying and eventually polished her proficiency in the language to further conversations with the individuals she had met through the non-profit.


Similarly, there are many ways to learn the same skill. Find which way works the best for you and is most aligned with your learning style.



4. Research, research, research.


Once you’ve found something that you would like to try out for the Summer, make sure that you find out as much as you can about it. All internships, offers, classes and part-time jobs look good on paper and in advertisements, so make sure you take your time to research what you want to do by either a more extensive Google search or by speaking to others who have experienced it before.


Some helpful things you can do to research the opportunities ahead of you are:

  1. Search for reviews of the internship/ job that you are interested in that were posted by earlier participants.

  2. Use the “News” tab on Google Search to find out the latest updates about the organization or program that you wish to join

  3. Reach out to previous participants/ employees/ etc who may have gotten involved last Summer and ask questions about their work culture, regulations, support system, etc

  4. Email or call the organization you plan on working with to clarify any information on their website or to answer any of your questions

  5. Speak to a trustworthy adult like a school counsellor or parent to get their opinion on it too.



5. Reach out and get guidance.


If you are still unsure where to get started, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. School counsellors and parents are good people to consult if you need a second opinion, but having a role model or mentor that you can email or reach out to might help. If you are planning on applying to a specific school or university, do reach out to their existing students and find out what activities made their application stand out the most; if you wish to start a small business pursue a specific career, you can always email over questions to someone in the field you like for advice on what you should do. You don’t have to copy what they did, but it may give you a rough inkling of what would best help you achieve your goals.


There are a hundred other tips and tricks that you can use to pick what to do this Summer to facilitate your professional development. These are just a few tips that have helped many, including myself, navigate through the endless choices that Summer presents. Most importantly, don’t forget to stay true to yourself and try new things that interest you and align with your goals.


Have a great summer ahead!




About the Author:

Harsha Ravindran ('24) is an undergraduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She acts as Chief Marketing Officer of Ascendance, a youth movement she co-founded as a teenager, and CEO of StartMyName.com, as well as recently publishing a book entitled The Makings of a Teenage Entrepreneur. She joined the Wharton Women Dollar Scholars Committee in the Spring of her Freshman year. For questions, please contact us below.




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