UNDERGRADUATE ADMISSIONS at WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY in ST. LOUIS

Summers in University (A Reflection and Guide)

The first summer break after my first year of college was one of the most shell-shocking seasons of my academic career. Some of my classmates were already doing internships while others pursed jobs. I, on the other hand, just used my summer break as a break! Is there a correct way to spend the summers when in university? In this article, I will reflect on the summer breaks of my college career.

Freshman Year (SU2019)

After being home for longer than 2 weeks for the first time, I arrived back in my hometown for the summer in 2019 a bit confused. Home seemed familiar, but so distant; it was like I was walking into the past. In some ways, this was a shocking experience because it became apparent how I’d grown over the past year.

However, it was comforting because I was returning to the place I grew up once again. The nostalgia was bittersweet and it was the first time I truly felt like I’d grown.

The months leading up to the summer we unique experiences as well. During that time I was shocked my freshman year was ALREADY coming to an end! Even though the classes and work may feel endless in the moment, by the end of freshman year, I was surprised by how fast it flew by. Also, from my parents and some media posts of peers, I felt pressured to do something amazing during my first university summer.

My advice to those experiencing their first summer back home after their freshman year, don’t rush to do big things because others may expect that of you. The summer is meant to be a break from the academic coursework you handle during the school year. Also, you’re just finishing freshman year! It’s a bit too early to be thinking about jobs and post-grad plans. Sophomore summer and junior summer are more important in career development, so take the chance to rest while you can.

Sophomore Summer (SU2020)

My sophomore summer was a bit of a unique exception. The spring before this summer was the beginning of the COVID outbreak, meaning the country was on lockdown during this summer. I wasn’t able to do many of the things I could’ve done because of the pandemic. This led to me spending my summer indoors, developing my art style, and doing things that I enjoyed.

For art students, if you cannot go out or get an internship, I highly suggest staying inside and doing what you love: making art! During the school year, studio work takes up all of our time. The summer is the only free time you’ll essentially have to pursue individual projects without the pressure of grades. Also, developing your art skills by doing work in your free time can itch your creative mind. You could discover new techniques you want to master, and carry those into your next year of art!

I personally think it could still be too early to get an internship during the second summer. Instead, a part-time job would be the best idea! I think sophomore summer is a wonderful time to START SAVING. Build up the funds you have in your back pocket because you’ll definitely need the money in your next two years. If you want to move out of the dorms and get your first apartment, saving up the money to pay for rent in the next year or so will be SO helpful. Also, that money could go towards next years supplies like renting books, transportation, and materials.

Junior Summer (SU2021)

Suddenly, my junior year has come to a close and even as I write this, I’m realizing this is my last summer as a university student. I’d never thought about it before, but the summer after graduation isn’t a break, but my first season as a full-fledged adult. I’ve been heavily reflecting on all the past summer breaks I’ve had in my academic career, wondering if I’ve made the right choices. However, there are very important things you need to remember during this time:

First of all, the time you spent in the past has already past. Don’t linger on the “what if”; focus on the “what next”. Considering whether or not you should’ve taken that job opportunity in your sophomore summer doesn’t matter cause we can’t change the past. All you can do is think about the future and what you can do with the things you have.

I’ve been spending this summer working my Wash U 360 job and considering how I want to wrap up my undergrad years. What do I want to do after I graduate? Where do I want to go? For those interested in grad school, NOW is the time to begin your search for grad schools and scholarships. If you want to move to a new state, start traveling or go on trips to different places to see where you’d want to stay long term! If you can’t travel, just looking at different places and getting to know others in places of interest is very helpful.

Overall, this summer is meant for preparation for the future. It looks different for everyone and imposter syndrome will probably be at an all time high. Always remember that you make your own path and write your own story. Take this summer to really think about what you want to do and your goals! Spend time with family to ground yourself so you can take off running into your last year of undergrad strong.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, there is no PERFECT way to spend your summers in university. Like I’ve mentioned time and time again, everyone has their own path. It may seem like you need to have all the answers or like there’s no time until you graduate. I think the thing I’ve been reminding myself through all my summers is that I have people that love and care for me. No matter where I go, who I lose, or how my dreams change, my family will always be there to support me. This can be your hereditary family or your chosen family. Home will always be waiting for me. Because of that, I can look to the future and take off running.