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Preparing for a Great Summer Amid Uncertainty

Suzanne Shaffer

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This has certainly been an unprecedented few months. Never in your student’s wildest dreams would they have imagined leaving college to finish the year online.

On top of that, the summer — and even returning to campus in the fall — is uncertain. With end of the semester approaching, and summer study abroad and travel programs cancelled along with internships and on-campus classes, your student may be looking desperately for a meaningful way to spend the summer months.

Here are some activities to help your student make it a productive and memorable summer:

1. Take an online course for credit

Your student may be tired of remote learning, but knocking out a class during the summer can get them one step closer to amassing the credits they need to graduate. Incoming first-year students should research the college they will be attending and take at least one class online over the summer. Since most colleges are still offering online classes this summer, there should be a fair amount to choose from. The added bonus is they will enter college in the fall with some college course experience and credits to show for it. Current students can also take advantage of summer courses available online.

2. Volunteer

Even with the potential for a continued stay-at-home order, there are ways your student can volunteer this summer. Good Morning America recently aired a segment in response to the desire to help that so many people have expressed — there are great ideas for teens and adults, too.

Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, has launched a new way for people to help others from the comfort of their own homes. There are opportunities all around the country; your student can search their online clearinghouse by location.

Your student can also look for local opportunities — or assess the need in your community and start their own volunteer program. For inspiration, read about the Yale student who, in just a few days, organized a delivery service in New York City with 2,700 volunteers to help deliver medicine and groceries to those at-risk.

3. Start a service business

Many essential service businesses are still operating along with the multitude of online services.

The great thing about a service business is that your student can use their skills to provide a service for others. You can sell a service regardless of age, business experience, education or even financial resources.

This is an opportunity for your student to earn money and provide a much-needed service to their community. They will learn to manage their time, and it will also be a good lesson in budgeting and finances — skills every college student should master.

Simple services like lawn maintenance, dog walking, and shopping or delivery are much needed services right now for many members of our community. There are also numerous services your student could offer online: computer tech support, academic tutoring (including English for second-language learners), and even freelance blogging.

For some help brainstorming service business opportunities, check out 105 Service Businesses to Start Today.

4. Work on their resume and LinkedIn profile

With the job market at a standstill right now (except for those essential industries hiring), your recently graduated college student might be in limbo — not knowing what’s next and unable to start a profitable job search.

They can still move in a positive direction by working on their resume and LinkedIn profile.

According to, the first step is to research resume keywords by carefully reviewing the job descriptions of posted jobs of interest and adding those keywords to your resume. Then, as you write your resume, highlight your skills and education while crafting a strong objective. This will ensure your resume stands out among other applicants (a strong cover letter is important as well — here's a website with some helpful tips and templates).

Your student or new grad can also spend time this summer working on their LinkedIn profile. Check out 31 LinkedIn Profile Tips. They can learn how to summarize their accomplishments, special skills and projects to get noticed by job recruiters. They can also use LinkedIn to search for and apply to jobs while making connections.

5. Start an online business

With little or no start-up capital, your student can use the summer to start an online business. They can set up a website or blog using free platforms like WordPress and adding e-commerce to the site. Or they can leverage a third-party site like Amazon or eBay to sell goods with no inventory costs. With a third party, you use their selling platform in exchange for giving them a cut of your sales.

If your student has a craft or product to sell, they can sell online on Etsy. Or how about cleaning out their closet and drawers and selling their used clothing, shoes and jewelry on Poshmark?

6. Learn a new language

Your student may not be studying abroad or even just traveling for fun this summer, but the time will come when travel will resume and having conversational ability in a foreign language will serve them well. Competency in a second language can also help when applying for jobs that are either international or require bilingual skills.

Summer is a good time to try on some languages and decide which one will best fit your student’s goals. There are a range of free online options available. Here are some websites that can help you get started: 9 Places to Learn a New Language Online for Free.

7. Start a podcast

Podcasts are popular! People listen for entertainment, education and news. If your student has an interest, passion or area of expertise they'd enjoy sharing with others, a podcast could be an effective and fun project.

Podcasts can earn income by either selling a product or service or offering advertising to companies to promote their products. By generating content, a podcast may even lead to becoming a published author.

8. Search and apply for scholarships

Current college students should keep searching and applying for scholarships. The simple fact is college costs rise every year. Even if your student’s scholarships and grants are renewable, they may not increase in proportion with rising tuition costs.

Additionally, if your student plans to attend graduate school, scholarships will be an essential element in financing that stage of their education. Otherwise graduate school debt on top of any undergraduate debt your student may acquire could be crushing.

Unless your student scored a full ride for all four years, it makes sense for them to keep applying for scholarships throughout college and summer is the perfect time to do this. Encourage them to learn how to apply for and win scholarships. It’s a great use of their time and can really pay off.

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Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been featured in print and online on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News College, TeenLife, Smart College Visit, Road2College and more.
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