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College Dog Days: 5 Productive Summer Plans (that Aren’t a Fancy Internship) for College Transfer Students

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For college students looking to transfer, the prospect of making plans for the summer can often be more stressful than their term-time, homework-related woes. Similar to high school students who seek productive summer plans in order to strengthen their college applications, college students, especially those looking to develop a strong transfer application, find themselves searching for meaningful summer opportunities as well. And yet, the search for a summer plan in between your years at college can feel like an entirely different ballgame: this time around, your options have increased vastly.

These days, many college students make use of their summers by gaining meaningful work experience and building their resumes now that they have a sense of what kind of career they want to pursue. You are no different! If anything, as a transfer student you should pay special attention to planning your summer, since you will be under more scrutiny as a transfer student than your peers who will remain at the same university in the coming school year.

Students looking to enter tech, finance, or consulting will find that many of the largest, most successful companies offer paid internships—that often also function as recruiting pipelines—over the summers. And yet, these internships are highly competitive, which means that only a very small fraction of qualified candidates are offered positions. Meanwhile, students looking to pursue other lines of work often find that equivalent experiences do not exist.

If you are one of the many students who has not cemented plans for a fancy, paid internship in the coming summer, read on for 5 equally fantastic alternatives to a productive summer that will strengthen your transfer application.


If you want (or need) to make money…

  1. Work in a restaurant or take another temporary job in your hometown.

If making money is your first priority now that you have three precious months of free time, then you should by all means take advantage of the opportunity! Though it can be easy to get caught up in the mindset that bulking up your resume and climbing the corporate ladder is the only way to achieve success, this is far from the truth. In fact, it is a sign of your responsibility, maturity, and self-sufficiency if you realize the need to make money for yourself and execute on this goal effectively.

In fact, a recent Forbes survey found that students who had no summer internship experiences had a 3% higher chance of getting a job offer than students who held unpaid internships during their summers.

  1. Organize your own source of income by babysitting, mowing lawns, or offering some other service and keeping track of your clients.

Here again, it is commendable to take responsibility of your finances and dedicate your summer time to making money for yourself. This will be compounded by your ability to take initiative in this endeavor—it is harder than it seems to effectively market yourself, juggle clients, and run a lucrative business, even if that business is founded on a simple concept.


If you want to bulk up your resume…

  1. Take an unpaid internship.

If you care more about gaining experience in a particular industry than you do about making money, hundreds of unpaid internships exist for you to take advantage of if you so desire. Especially in industries like marketing, fashion, publishing, and journalism, you will find that opportunities to shadow executives, help in offices, and learn in a hands-on way abound if you’re willing to forgo a salary. If you are interested in something along these lines, the best way to go about locating such opportunities is to visit the websites of individual companies, organizations, or news sources where you would be interested in working and browsing for a summer internship opportunity.

These internships are in many ways just as valuable as others in terms of the work experience and exposure they can provide you. If you know what type of career you want to pursue, a summer internship can be a great opportunity to break into the field and begin developing connections. Meanwhile, if you are not sure what industry you want to work in after school, this type of job is a fantastic opportunity to observe different types of jobs and decide what suits your fancy. Because they are low-level commitments, you do not need to feel as though accepting an unpaid internship will tie you to the company forever.

On another note, there are ways to maximize the monetary value of an unpaid internship. Many students pursuing this course will search for opportunities in their hometowns so that they can avoid the extra expense of rent by living at home. Alternatively, some universities offer stipends or grants—by application, of course—to students who accept an unpaid internship position for the summer. If you anticipate requiring money for rent, food, travel, and other incidentals, find out if your university has money set aside for this purpose. On a separate note, some companies that cannot offer salaries to their interns can instead offer college credit.

  1. Be a research assistant to a professor or seek out an opportunity in a lab.

If you particularly interested in the research being conducted by a professor or at a local lab,, reach out to the appropriate person and inquire after an assistantship for the summer. These opportunities are wildly informative if you are researching a topic that you can picture yourself studying in the future. But these experiences are also worthwhile more generally if you are interested in peeking behind the scenes at the process of researching, writing, editing, and publishing a scholarly book or essay. Occasionally, research positions offer a stipend as well, which can help offset any personal costs.

  1. Be a self starter and plan your own productive summer!

Ultimately, there is no right way to plan a productive summer. Thus, if you know that you are extremely driven person with a high level of self-discipline, there is no reason that you cannot plan your own productive summer without the scheduling restraints of a job or internship. In other words, whether you were not offered the internship of your dreams or you simply could not take an internship for whatever reason, you can still have a wildly productive summer of your own accord. The key is to be organized  and proactive.

On the very day you return home from school, sit down with a pen and notepad and decide what it is that you would like to accomplish by the end of the summer. A good place to start is to think about what you love to do. Are you interested in journalism? Start a blog! Do you want to be a novelist? Write a proposal (or draft) a book! Are you interested in medicine? Volunteer at a hospital! The possibilities for your summer—as in your life, you’ll find—can be endless as long as you are willing to think big.

Once you’ve decided on your goals, you will need to write a list of a few actionable tasks for yourself each day that will help you achieve these goals you have set for yourself. If, for example, your plan is to write a blog over the summer, your daily To Do list might look something like this:

  1. Read 1 article from the New York Times, 1 from the Washington Post, and 1 from the Wall  Street Journal to get a continuing sense of current events
  2. Draft a blog post for tomorrow
  3. Publish today’s post at 3 p.m.
  4. Brainstorm articles for next week.

Obviously, the To Do list above is a hypothetical one; nevertheless, it hopefully demonstrates the type of discipline and proactive thinking you should practice in order to get the most out of your summer. While it is key to hold yourself to your To Do list and complete it every day, you should also keep an open mind—your plans can change and you may refine your goals as the summer progresses. Allow this to happen!


In the end, as long as you are keeping yourself busy with something that interests you over the course of the summer months, you can consider your plans productive and worthwhile. Truly, what matters more than the opportunities you pursue is how you pursue them—it must be with an open mind and an intentional willingness to learn. Even a student that has landed a fancy summer internship in finance, consulting, or tech will need to approach this opportunity determined to learn if he or she is committed to making the best of it.

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Lily Calcagnini
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Lily is a History and Literature concentrator at Harvard University who is doing her darnedest to write a thesis about all of her favorite things at once: fashion, contemporary culture, art journalism, and Europe. A passionate learner, she cares deeply about helping high school students navigate the process of college admissions, whether it be through private essay tutoring or sharing advice on the CollegeVine blog.