Are you graduating college or finishing the school year feeling like you’re stuck in limbo because you don’t have summer plans lined up?
Perhaps you missed that internship deadline. Or maybe you have pandemic-related anxiety about working in public spaces again.
You can still make the most of your summer break to further your education, gain work experience and enhance your skills — it’ll just take a little flexibility and creativity.
Here are seven productive things to do in the summer for college kids.
7 Ways to Make the Most of Summer Without a Job
1. Take Free Online Classes
Going to class might not be your first choice for summer break, but this is a smart time to develop valuable career skills.
MOOCs, massive open online courses, let you take classes from real universities — even heavy hitters like MIT and Harvard — online for free.
Here are five important soft skills you can learn through free online courses this summer:
- Emotional intelligence
- Multicultural literacy
- Storytelling and communication
- Personal branding and social media literacy
- A new language
Pick them up through these free MOOCs.
You can bone up on hard skills through online tutorials, too. These skills will come in handy in any field:
- How to use a spreadsheet
- How to use G-Suite apps
- How to use WordPress
- How to use social media
- How to edit video and audio
- How to edit photos and graphics
- How to administer first aid
- How to analyze data
Study up through these free tutorials.
2. Earn Credits for Free
The College Level Examination Program lets you earn college credit in basic subjects like math and history by taking an exam.
CLEP exams cost $89, but you can get fees covered through Modern States’ Freshman Year for Free program. Enroll for free online courses and tutoring through the program, and it covers your CLEP exam fee.
Test centers live on college campuses and other locations around the country, and you have to show up in person for an exam. You can generally schedule your exam any time the campus is open for classes (including summer semesters).
Test centers will be closed if their host campuses are closed, but the program currently offers the option of taking the CLEP exam at home via remote proctoring.
3. Apply for a Project Grant
Use the summer to work on your own creative project! It could make good resume fodder — especially if you win a grant to fund it.
Check out these resources to find grants for artists:
Even if you don’t win a grant, completing a project that will impress a prospective employer could pay off big time in the future.
If a lost internship or job opportunity leaves a hole in your summer schedule, consider filling it with volunteer work. The experience looks good on your resume, and volunteering can be just as valuable as job experience for building useful career skills and networking.
The same way companies have shifted to remote work in response to the pandemic, lots of nonprofit organizations have moved volunteer work online, too. Find volunteer opportunities online and in your area through Idealist.
5. Freelance in a Related Field
Tons of work that might be relevant to your future career could be available online as freelance gigs.
Freelance writing is especially in demand and it provides the opportunity to start working without a degree, experience or particular expertise (though each of these could earn you more money down the line).
Start by looking for freelance blogging jobs, which usually have a lower barrier to entry. Once you get a few published pieces under your belt, try pitching a story to a higher-paying outlet.
Not a writer? Try your hand at being a virtual assistant, graphic designer or one of these more unusual freelance jobs:
If you recently graduated without work or internship experience, freelancing could be a way to earn money while beefing up your resume before applying for full-time jobs.
“Employers don’t really hire for potential — you’ve got to be able to show how you’ve applied that potential in some way,” says Alison Green at Ask a Manager. “Even with entry-level jobs, you’re going to be up against other entry-level candidates who have some amount of experience.”
6. Find Online Jobs
Did your plans for summer work fall through and now you need to quickly pivot? Take your job search online, where you’ll find some unusual opportunities to fill the summer months.
Here are some side gigs you can do online while social distancing:
Check out these online jobs for college students that pay at least $15 an hour.
7. Apply for College Scholarships
Another option for covering next semester’s tuition: Apply for scholarships.
Several scholarships require you to submit an essay with your application, so summer break — when you don’t have other schoolwork — is a great time to focus on them.
Search for scholarships from your college, county, municipality or state; from organizations that support people of your race, ethnicity, gender or other demographics; or from organizations that support your field or interests.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media.