How You Should Spend Your First Summer After College

Study on the BeachOkay, so you’ve just finished up your first year of college. It was (hopefully) awesome and you (hopefully) learned a lot, but now it’s time for summer. Glorious summer! Throughout middle and high school, summer vacation was always the peak of the year – a time to relax and enjoy the company of old friends without the incessant demands of school.

Now that you’re a college student, though, things can seem a little different. All of a sudden, you might feel pressure from your family, friends, or classmates to use your summer in a certain way. This often manifests itself in the form of pressure to further your career prospects via an internship, fellowship, or job shadowing.

While doing this may be important, it is not the only worthwhile way you can spend your first summer out of college. It is important to remember that it is your summer – not anyone else’s – so what you choose to do with it should be a reflection of the values that are important to you.

When you don’t let any narrative or stereotype limit what you feel you are “supposed” to do with your first summer, you will be more free to make the best choice available to you. There are 3 main ways that you can use this first summer, each of which have merits and drawbacks that I’ll explore below:

1) Summer Job
One classic way to pass the long summer hours is with a summer job. This can take many forms, such as scooping ice cream, being a camp counselor, working as a cashier, and much more. Businesses are always looking for young people to fill positions, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some form of work.

These jobs may not pay high wages, but they can be a great source of income, both to chip away at outrageous college debts or to just have some fun money to spend during the summer. They will also add work experience to your resume, and give you real-world skills that can be valuable outside of just that specific job.

2) Internship
Even though the pressure to find elite internships is often excessive, internships can be a valuable use of your time in the summer. Internships can connect you with career opportunities, help you learn what jobs are of interest to you, and give you skills that might be valuable down the road. However, internships are often unpaid, meaning that doing one is likely a long-term, rather than a short-term, investment in yourself. There are some paid internships out there (Go get one if you can!), but these are a rarity.

If possible, combining an internship with a part-time summer job can be a good way to have the best of both worlds – gain career skills while also raising money – but this can sometimes take too much time out of your summer, a time when you should be able to decompress after the rigors of college rather than add to your stress level.

3) Travel and Relaxation
College students are in a unique position, in that even though they are close to the “real world,” they still can put off searching for careers, if only for a little while. One great way to use your youth is to travel with friends or family to see new places or revisit childhood destinations. You’ll meet friends from all over the world in college, and summer is a great time to really see where they come from.

If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can also use your summer to completely relax. Without homework or classes, you will have time to read books, go on adventures, and give your brain a well-deserved break. Although this won’t earn you money or directly prepare you for a career, it can help clear you head and put you in a good position to continue learning from, and enjoying, your college experience.

Each of these ways of spending your summer has different values and benefits, so there is no way to definitely rank which one is best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – anything you choose to do over your summer vacation can work out if you approach it with the right mindset.

Do you still need to help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

By Aidan Calvelli.

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep…

During the B-school admissions process and your career after you’ve earned your MBA you’re likely to rack up quite a few miles traveling, so it makes sense to get the most out of those miles through travel loyalty programs. Whether you’re a frequent flyer novice or PuddingGuy himself, here are a few tips that will help you get the most from your miles.

  1. Learn the art of the transfer: just because you earned miles or points on one program doesn’t mean you have to use them there. Sites like points.com or flyertalk.com have tools to tell you how to get the best transfer deal. For example, 5000 American Express Membership Rewards points transfer directly into 6500 Hilton HHonors points, but if you transfer those into an airline reward program (most have a 1:1 ration with Hilton), you can transfer the 5000 airline miles into Hilton at a 1:2 rate to net 10000 Hilton HHonors points!
  2. Mileage runs: most frequent flyer programs have elite tiers (Silver, Gold, Platinum, etc), with certain benefits given to elite members. The typical benefits include bonus miles earned (usually a multiple of actual miles flown), more flexibility when redeeming awards, and of course bragging rights in your circle of friends. Achieving elite status usually requires a certain number of miles flown per year. If you find yourself slightly short of the mileage requirement, it may be worth it to make a “mileage run” (a trip taken specifically to meet a mileage requirement) to make up the difference. If a roundtrip coast to coast flight can boost you to the next elite tier (or a roundtrip flight to visit a school on the opposite coast!), you should consider it if the mileage bonus in the next year is more than the cost of the flight.
  3. Intermediary programs: you may fly on Alaska Airlines exclusively, but does that mean you should get the Alaska Airlines Visa? Maybe not. Using what you learned about transferring miles and points, let’s say you did some research online and discovered a hotel loyalty program called Starwood Preferred Guest. You would also know that Starwood gives you a 5000 point bonus for every 20000 points you earn, which transfer 1:1 to any airline’s frequent flyer program. Even if you never stay in a Starwood-branded hotel (which you should, since they are so nice!), consider the Starwood Card from American Express because it is the fastest way to earn free flights, as strange as that sounds.

This is just a brief introduction to the art and science of travel loyalty programs but the possibilities are endless. Do your research and find the deals that make sense for you and give you the most bang for your buck…after all, it’s just plain good business sense!