What summer activities would be good for a college student at short notice?
May 4, 2011 8:42 PM   Subscribe

What's a college student to do over the summer after disrupted plans?

The bullet points:
- Undergraduate at a large public research university in the Midwest studying economics, psychology, and sociology.
- Interested in doing research work over the summer at another institution if at all possible.
- Currently has no summer plans, but would like to change that.
- Has around $800 in funds for anything discretionary.

My previous plan: I applied for multiple internships in my field of interest, decision-making, at universities I was interested in studying as a graduate student at. However, all of these internships received a large number of applicants, and I received some very pleasant, personalized rejection letters to the effect of, "You'd be really good in this position, but unfortunately, so would a couple of other people, and we chose them."

My default plan: I'd return home and spend three months living with my parents.

A potential backup: I could theoretically stay here over the summer and take a class. However, I'd really like to get out of this college town, and I'd absolutely love to see another city. Ultimately, I'd like to do something productive over the summer, something I could point to as time well spent.

So, what are some good ways to spend a summer, on a reasonable budget? My mother has said that, conditional on my finding an activity, she will pay for reasonably-priced lodging, but that I need to pay for anything discretionary.

I'm aware that I asked something very similar at this time last year. At this point, however, the following key things have changed:

- My field of study is much better-defined.
- I have made multiple attempts to apply for programs.
- This is the last summer of my undergraduate career.
posted by LSK to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This won't help you with getting out of your city. But if you find yourself in your current town or at home with your parents, here's what I'd start with:

I'd look for a part-time job, even if it's really crappy, just to pay the bills and get a little work experience. Having actual experience, even if it's not at all related to your goal, can be a little booster. And a little extra money, even at a low wage, never hurt anyone.

Then I'd start looking for volunteer positions related to your desired field so you can get something on your resume. Sure, the internships have dried up, but maybe there are unpaid, unstructured, informal things you can help out with informally for the exposure. Ask all of your professors - not just one - and see if any of them say "sure, we could use an extra set of interested hands around here for 10/20 hours a week." Congrats - you have a relevant resume line. Or maybe there's a nonprofit in the area that has needs related to your interests?
posted by Tehhund at 9:09 PM on May 4, 2011


I had unrelated part-time jobs every summer in college. Except for the immediate benefit of being able to pay rent and buy meager groceries, they never did anything for me. They took up space on my resume, provoking strange looks from interviewers, until I replaced them with post-college jobs.

You mentioned an interest in decision-making and psychology. Did you mean decision-making as in the area of cognitive psychology? This is a pretty unimaginative suggestion, but can you check if anyone needs help at a judgment and decision making lab at your university? They're fairly common.

Alternatively, you can take the summer to learn (or strengthen) skills needed in lab research, if that's what you're interested in. Matlab, Python, SPSS, R, some kind of experiment design software (PsyScope, E-Prime, Presentation) — it's hard to be too knowledgeable about them, and surprisingly few undegrads know their rudiments.
posted by Nomyte at 9:23 PM on May 4, 2011


Response by poster: Nomyte: I applied to work with my campus's decision-making lab and they're also full with research assistants. This semester I'm working in the group processes lab in the Sociology department, which is great, but not the path I want to go down. In addition, I just plain want to get out of this place for a summer if at all possible.
posted by LSK at 9:28 PM on May 4, 2011


I had unrelated part-time jobs every summer in college. Except for the immediate benefit of being able to pay rent and buy meager groceries, they never did anything for me. They took up space on my resume, provoking strange looks from interviewers, until I replaced them with post-college jobs.

Hmm, I disagree a bit with this (in my life, of course!). While random wage-slave jobs have never particularly helped me get the Awesome Jobs I actually want, they have really helped by establishing a sort of alternate career that I can fall back on when an Awesome Job is not a possibility or reality for whatever reason. In this economy it can be really hard to get a shitty job if you don't have experience doing shitty jobs.
posted by threeants at 10:01 PM on May 4, 2011


LSK: In addition, I just plain want to get out of this place for a summer if at all possible.

I completely understand. I wish you luck finding something one can be happy with.
posted by Nomyte at 10:40 PM on May 4, 2011


There are absolutely other universities which would have a need for research assistants. Look at cities you're interested in going to, find universities, email relevant professors, confirm that they (or often their graduate students) could use you, and voila. Some of them might even be able to pay. You could probably even do this at the universities whose internships you applied to -- working as a research assistant to a professor is likely an entirely different thing than the internship.
posted by shivohum at 11:32 PM on May 4, 2011


Does your school have a career center to talk to? I would go to them and ask if they have any leads on interesting internships or summer work.
posted by that girl at 12:13 AM on May 5, 2011


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