By Eric Garneau
The most clear motivation to stay on-campus over the summer is to take a couple classes. Ever had something you've really wanted to learn but couldn't make fit in your tight fall or spring schedule? Now's the chance! And since this is a class you're taking just because you want to, hopefully it won't come with the same pressure that your required courses do.
2. Catch up on credits.
Or maybe your summer classes ARE required. If you made a few missteps during your spring/fall semesters, you can use the summer months to retake a course you need to graduate. Summer school can be a great way to get yourself back on track for graduation. It may not be the most fun use of your time, but hey, you'll feel good about it in a few years.
3. Enjoy independent study.
Related to the first point, summer is a FANTASTIC time to engage in self-directed learning opportunities. This writer used the summer between his junior and senior year of college to engage in a graduate-level study of literary criticism. It was sponsored by a professor, so it paid credit out at the end, but it just required a lot of reading and a little writing - something academically-minded people are probably doing over break anyway. You might as well get tangible proof of your efforts. And again, you can take the summer break to study something you really WANT to learn.
4. Get ready for grad school.
Independent study - whether school-sponsored or truly self-directed - is a really great way to prepare for graduate school. If you think a master's degree is in your future, why not take the summer months to hunker down with some reading in the field of your choosing? Without the day-to-day pressures of class (and maybe not even a job?) your brain will be more free to absorb knowledge you'll find helpful when you take the next step of your educational journey.
5. On-campus resources.
Even if you don't plan to use the summer months to earn academic credits or experience, your campus is still a rich resource that can really help you out. Consider everything available to you at school that you may not have back home - libraries, career centers, multicultural centers and more. Summer might provide the perfect opportunity for you to take advantage of all the benefits being a college student affords.
6. Cultural resources.
Speaking of culture, most cities that host colleges - especially larger liberal arts institutions - are a tremendous center of activity. Maybe during the school year you don't have time to explore all the good stuff your college's home has to offer. Now's the time! Go to art museums, music venues, new bars and restaurants off-campus...basically anything you find yourself thinking you wish you could do during the fall and spring terms.
7. It's a break from home.
When you stay at college over the summer but don't have academic obligations, it can feel like a 3-month long vacation. It frees you up to do anything on this list you'd like, or, honestly, nothing at all (though that might get boring after awhile). For some students, home is a place of social/familial obligations that can be really draining. A college summer can be a great opportunity to put those off for a bit (assuming you have that option).
8. Learn independence.
In fact, away from your parents, teachers, RAs and whatever else, a summer spent at college can be a really great chance to explore independence in a more real-world setting. Sure, you can do this at college all year round, but the test becomes a little more relevant when you don't have a Monday-Friday class schedule to worry about. Use your three months of no classes to really feel out what it means to be in charge of your whole schedule. It's great preparation for the inevitable journey into the working world after you graduate.
9. Build relationships.
When you spend a summer at college, you can explore classes, culture, cities...or you can explore your relationships with your friends at school. The months between spring and fall semester can provide an amazing chance to really get to know the people you've been in the trenches with the last few months, so to speak. In fact, students who remain at college over the summer tend to bond quickly with one another. They have a 'we're the ones left behind' kind of vibe that makes forming new friendships - ones you might not have even thought about during the school year - possible. This is a really fulfilling experience.
10. Enjoy the quiet.
Or just don't do much of anything. You'll inevitably fall into exploring your environment, of course, but truly, spending a summer at your college home without any obligations is totally relaxing, even IF you have work/reading to do. It's the closest you may ever come to a permanent vacation (until retirement, at least), so enjoy it.
Nervous about controlling your income during the summer months? Read these tips to help keep your spending under control.