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Top 10 Summer Experiences for College Students

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“What are you doing this summer?” – this phrase is echoing through dorm rooms and university building halls across campuses right now from London to Sydney to Seattle. From more casual pursuits like music festivals to more academic and career-oriented choices like internships and summer jobs, there are literally thousands of things you could do this summer while regular classes aren’t in session.

Summer Experiences for College Students

The following sample essay was compiled with every student in mind, and brings together options for the not-so-serious summer breaker to the very serious or career-minded summer student. Take a look; maybe something will catch your eye!

Summer music festivals

Although a lot of the year’s greatest music festivals happen in the spring, there are still great summer options to choose from. The Counterpoint Festival in Kingston Downs, GA kicks off Memorial Day Weekend, as does the Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival in Las Vegas. The Northside Festival in Brooklyn, New York, features “artists and thinkers moving us forward” which equals 400 bands, 150 speakers, and 50 films over the June 8th-June 14th week. This year’s Sasquatch Festival (also over Memorial Day weekend) features the return of the Decemberists, Gogol Bordello, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey and the ever-entertaining Chromeo.

There’s always Bonnaroo (headliners Billy Joel, Mumford 7 Sons, and Deadmaus), and if you’re headed a bit more far afield, you might take in Camden Rocks to see And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead, Dinosaur Pile-Up, and other neo-metal bands. We Are FSTVL is a recent UK start-up whose successful first year made it one of the best dance festivals in the world; this year’s lineup includes Route 94, Dusky, Loco Dice, and Gorgon City. Whatever you choose, save up your money only to blow it on an incredibly expensive ticket, get reliable transportation, and stay safe out there among the throngs!

Road trip for summer

Road trips are a college student summer vacation mainstay, and the choices are literally endless, whether you travel by car, bike, or foot. Maybe hiking the Appalachian Trail is a bit too labor-intensive for you, or maybe your bike got stolen from campus this year. Either way, someone you know has a car, or can at least rent one, for the ultimate summer road trip. Road trips are cheaper than that hefty festival ticket or the plane ticket to Greece that you had in mind, and chances are mom and dad aren’t going to foot those bills for you.

So pick your friends (preferably the ones you don’t fight with), pick your destination, throw your favorite clothes into a backpack and stock the cooler for a cross-country adventure. California’s highway 101 is always a favorite, but you’re looking at plenty of traffic which might make it less idyllic, if that’s what you had in mind. The Eureka to Coos Bay Oregon loop is breathtaking and much less-traveled. There are many places to camp along this stretch of highway, and the Redwoods have to be experienced to be believed.

Attractions include Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, a Pacific kayak tour featuring arches and kelp forests, flying kites on windswept sandy beaches, or the Crazy Norwegian’s Fish and Chips. 

Few places in the world are as beautiful and magnificent as Moab Utah, with Arches National Park, Island in the Sky Campground, and Needles. It’s a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts, and home to some of the best breakfast joints in Utah. Wind through the canyons and stop to enjoy the scenery under the sapphire blue skies this summer – don’t forget Goblin Valley if you’ve got a little extra time.

For the more adventurous, Kenai Peninsula in Alaska features 495,000-acre Chugach Park and a 1.9 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, home to choice fishing, paddle-boarding, and moonshine sample. Make sure you bring your Jeep and your mountain bike. Or head down to New Orleans for a seafood and beach extravaganza that will leave you sun-kissed, sated, and surfing. Fishing is plentiful, and the beaches are ravishing.

Summer semester studying abroad

If local flavors aren’t really to your liking, or you hunger for something a bit more exotic than road trips can afford, consider studying abroad. According to StudentUniverse.com, the top places to study abroad for 2015 are Barcelona, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, Rome, and Seville. London is the most popular study abroad location for English-speaking students.

You can stay in a Victorian Manor house a lá Downton Abbey just north of London, a medieval 12th century castle in the Italian Alps in Brunnenburg, a 4,500 acre Biocultural Reserve on the Yucatan peninsula in South America, or study urbanization in Tanzania or ecology in Australia. In addition to these regulars, Switzerland ranks very high in education, Tokyo is a safe choice with the 13th ranked university in the world, Seoul is relatively inexpensive with hidden gems like the Tomb of Prince Yangnyeong, and South Africa, Perú, Costa Rica, and Denmark are popular as well. No matter which destination you choose, the experience of living and studying in another country is one you will never forget.

Run a marathon

Running has taken the exercise world by storm, with many more participants from every age group than ever before. Running is the fastest way to lose that freshman 15, get cardio benefits, and be outside during the summer. Marathons usually fund charity and environmental causes spanning the spectrum from runs to cure breast cancer to funding for local clinics and school programs. Running a marathon takes planning and practice, but you can find the details on great running websites like REI.com and RunningWorld.com.

If you’ve never run a marathon before, or even more than ten steps from your front door to your car, fear not. First, you need the right gear: shoes fitted by an expert at a specialized running shoe store (you don’t have to buy them there, but you do have to make sure they fit) and clothing that will keep you warm or cool during every season. Second, you need the motivation: losing weight, getting healthier, losing that freshman 15, or just spending time with a friend, family member, or yourself.

Build your weekly mileage over time by running 3-5 times a week; use intervals and tempo running to increase your cardio capacity; and do a long run every week or week and a half to adjust your body to long distances. Don’t forget rest and recovery days – every other is recommended – otherwise you have a higher risk for injury and burnout. Choose a local marathon at the end of the summer, and start training!

Teach yourself to code

Right now, coding is being propagated as the key to the best jobs, as well as a requirement for some jobs that seem to have little to do with it. DIYGenius says fundamental coding is a digital literacy skill that everyone should learn. Among the people who recommend coding as a mental exercise and skill builder are the late Steve Jobs, who insisted “it teaches you how to think,” and President Barack Obama.

Right now, there is a deficit of women in the field of coding, and demand for the skill is expected to skyrocket over the next decade, as computers become the main platform for communication globally. For free programs, visit Codeacademy’s website or download their Hour of Code app for your iPhone. Code.org is also free, and BitFountain, GirlsWhoCode, and GirlDevelopIt provide low-cost alternatives to expensive “boot-camp” coding class companies in San Francisco.

If you are a woman, you are currently underrepresented in the coding community; experts estimate that 18.5 percent of computer science test-takers are female, and only .04 of women entering college intended to major in computer science. 2013’s female computer science graduates were down 36 percent to 14 percent. If you’re a woman, do yourself a favor and teach yourself to code through one of these great programs. It will help close the coding gender and income gap, as well as further your career, knowledge, and marketability after graduation. The world needs your skills.


Volunteering is an extremely rewarding way to spend some time during summer vacation, and not feel like you’re wasting time. Having said that, volunteering doesn’t have to dull or boring, and the many opportunities available through websites like Projects-Abroad.org, Volunteeringsolutions.com, VFP.org, and the Peach Corps combine travel with volunteering for a double-whammy of improved conscience and new experiences.

If you’re unable to travel or have a part-time summer job or internship, a local volunteer opportunity like Habitat for Humanity during which you build and landscape a new home for a family in need, or your local homeless shelter or animal shelter, might be more in line with your summertime plans. Another great idea is to find a company who is present in the field of study you are majoring in or the career field you’d like to work in, and check out their website for volunteer opportunities.

This can garner you connections for after graduation. If you still can’t decide, ask around to friends, family, or neighbors – there are often people in your community who would love some help with gardening, watching kids, or even computer tasks you may be qualified for. Hey! They might even pay you.

Get an internship, take an online course, or get a summer job

Summer jobs are on the top of the list for many students during the summer, and while you probably don’t want to be working the whole summer, some extra income will make those road trips, festivals, or beach trips much more feasible. The economy is surging back, now, and many companies are looking to hire the best and brightest new stars in the collegiate arena – don’t underestimate yourself or your abilities; look for companies you’d like to work for or that might be stepping stones on the way to your dream job.

Check out their summer internships, online course offerings, or part-time summer jobs and apply early. Sure, you can work at the restaurant you worked for in high school, but admit that you deserve something better now that you’re in college; talk to friends, family, professors, and fellow students to hear about opportunities. Design your LinkedIn profile and start keeping it up – the more connections, the better. The possibilities are legion, and the benefits to be reaped far exceed just your paycheck. Online courses are one of the best ways to edify your education.

When you’re not dealing with a full load of courses, you have better focus and the time to really study a new subject or difficult subject in depth. Make sure you plan your vacations around your course, and don’t book the whole summer if you can help it; everybody needs a break before fall semester kicks back in.

Learn something – anything!—New

Whether it’s coding, gardening, a new language, or how to run a marathon, learning a new skill has been proven to keep your mind working over the summer vacation and during the rest of your life. When you go back to school in the fall, your brain won’t feel so overloaded, and picking back up where you left off will be easy. Choose something you’re not studying in school, and go at it wholeheartedly.

If you find it tedious after a while, pick something else, but try to follow through, at least until you’ve made that first horrible mash-up and determined music mixing is not your best ability. Learning things outside of your comfort zone use different areas of your brain, and encourage overall intelligence and capability; you’d be surprised how often you use skills you thought were useless after graduation. You can also work on fine-tuning a current skill to make it more useful in your future or current career. 

Start your own business

College entrepreneurs are among some of the most successful people in the world (think Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Lauren Bush, Ann Bezancon, Madame C. J. Walker, and Reshma Chatteram Chamberlin – look them up if you don’t know who they are). Chamberlin, CEO of Muzio which develops international mobile and web applications for prominent clients all over the world, says

“If you truly believe you have a good idea, don’t let anybody tell you it’s not.”

Once you’ve got a great idea, look for tips on SBA.gov (Small Business Administration of the U.S. government) and start writing your business plan. From there you can get assistance, counseling, and free training on how to run your business. Securing funding is one of the most important parts of a new and ongoing business, and SBA.gov will give you answers about choosing a location, financing, and determining your business’ legal structure.

Finally, you can register your business name and get a tax ID number through links from the website. It’s essential in today’s business environment to understand the legal aspects of owning a business, so understanding employer responsibilities and retaining a lawyer is a fantastic idea. Startup resources are available to you, as well – get out there and try out your idea! It might just work, as long as I doesn’t concern cupcakes.

Spend time with your family & friends

Last but not least, appreciate and spend time with the people who support, help pay for, or encourage your college education. You parents and sister miss you, and want to hear all about your year at school, and old friends are sometimes the best friends. Furthering your future career or opportunity is important, but so are the people who help make that happen.

Spending at least a week with your family over summer vacation may help you wind down or at least vent a bit about any frustrations you might have – and who knows? You might get some useful advice to take with you back to college next year, whether it’s advice from your brother on how to date that unreachable girl on campus, or from your mother on how to communicate better with your most difficult professor.

College is the time to branch out, learn new things about yourself, and learn new things about the world; but your friends and family have been helping you do that your entire life. Show them you appreciate it. Summer is the time to slow down for some, and the time to ramp up for others. No matter which option you choose, remember its back to the grind in the fall – so enjoy your time off. 

Did you recently graduate? Learn how to get a job after college.



Ultius, Inc. "Top 10 Summer Experiences for College Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 26 May. 2015. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/top-10-summer-experiences-for-college-students.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2015, May 26). Top 10 Summer Experiences for College Students. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/top-10-summer-experiences-for-college-students.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Top 10 Summer Experiences for College Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. May 26, 2015 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/top-10-summer-experiences-for-college-students.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Top 10 Summer Experiences for College Students." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. May 26, 2015 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/top-10-summer-experiences-for-college-students.html.

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