Being a university student offers you a unique opportunity that you'll probably never get again in your working life: extended holiday periods. The three or four weeks that you get off at Christmas and Easter are usually used for studying and getting on top of your coursework, as well as catching up with friends and family back home. However, the summer holidays are a different story. Most courses break up for summer in late May or early June, and the new academic year doesn't start until mid to late September, leaving students with the best part of three months on their hands.
It may only be April now but it's never too early to start planning how you'll make the most of your summer break from university. Here are a few ideas to help you get more from your extended break this year...
Once you graduate and start working it's unlikely that you'll ever have the opportunity to indulge in carefree travel again. In most jobs you'll get four or five weeks holiday per year but many employers prefer you to spread this out over the year rather than taking it in one go. So being a working post-graduate adult kind of puts a spanner in your travel plans.
Use the two or three months of “free time” in between academic years to see the world and make some fantastic memories. Travelling gives you a great insight into how other cultures operate, which can then help to shape your own development and life path.
As a student your budget will be tight so you probably won't be travelling in luxury, but living out of a backpack helps you to prioritise what's important to you and increases your independence and your freedom.
There are around 300,000 graduates in the UK each year so competition for jobs is tough. Having a degree is important, but it's not a guaranteed ticket straight into your dream job. You need something that sets you apart from the competition; something that will really make your CV stand out to potential employers.
Use the rest of your Easter break to research and make contact with companies in your chosen field that might be offering work experience to undergraduates. Even if you can't get any experience in the field you want to go into then you should still try to get some work over the summer. Any work experience at all will help to bolster your CV and prepare you for the real world.
Working throughout the holidays is also a huge help to your bank balance too. Set up a savings account and put a large chunk of your holiday earnings into it so that you've got something to fall back on when your student loan just won't stretch far enough next semester.
Volunteering can take up as much or as little of your time as you like, and it's a really worthwhile way to enhance your CV whilst giving something back to the community. Start by thinking of something that you're interested in, then find out what schemes are running near you. For example if you're interested in conservation then look for tree-planting schemes or community recycling initiatives that you can get involved in; vInspired is a good place to start.
You could even incorporate your volunteering goals into your travel goals and look for volunteer schemes abroad. From teaching English to children in Africa, to working with animals in Argentina, there are hundreds of ways in which you can see the world and do something worthwhile with your time simultaneously.
University terms take up just over half of the calendar year, so studying during the holidays could mean the difference between a first and a 2:2. Spending the Christmas and Easter breaks studying is a given as you're still in the thick of the current academic year. However, studying in the summer break could be what gives you the extra edge when it comes to degree results.
We're not saying that you don't deserve to take time off during the summer, because you do. It's important to carry on reading though in preparation for the next year. Set aside one day or a couple of afternoons each week to read newly-published journals or familiarise yourself with the literature that you'll be working with next semester.
You've got almost three months of free time away from university so you've not really got much of an excuse for not catching up with family and friends! Plan some road trips and days out; have games night with the family; go camping; bake cakes – whatever makes you happy!
After graduation most of your time will be spent looking for a job, if you don't already have one lined up, and once you're working full time you'll regret not making the most of your last carefree summer of your youth. Heed this advice and make sure you've got a couple of really fun, worthwhile summers to look back on!