STEM Students: Using the Summer to Prepare for What Comes Next

Some college students in a science program see the summer as a time to relax, unwind, and take a break from the stressful demands of their major. But it’s important to recognize summer break as an opportunity to carve out more success in your area of choice—or to fall behind. You might think that the activities you choose to pursue over the summer will be a waste of time, but the price of being a couch potato from June through August is an empty space on your resume that is easily interpretable to any employer. On the other hand, using your college summers productively can serve as a launching pad to a bright post-grad future!

Many students work during the summer by teaching, serving as tour guides, or engaging in local industry. However, if you’re looking for a competitive STEM career, you might want something a little more self-tailored. The options for a mathematics, science, or engineering student might seem more limited than those of a humanities major, but don’t be dismayed. Here are some options for summer plans that will keep you on the STEM fast-track—and keep your checkbook on track:

Business internships and partnerships: Many STEM students seek internships with technology or finance companies during the summer. These might include social media or Wall Street companies, which are always looking for good coders. Many of these opportunities pay very well, and it is not uncommon for them to offer full-time positions to their college interns upon graduation. That’s one way to secure a post-grad career!

REUs: Getting a business internship is great if your postgrad interests lie in industry. But what if you’re headed for academia, or at least aren’t sure you’re ready to rule it out? “REUs,” or “Research Experiences for Undergraduates,” are selective, competitive research opportunities with various programs across the country in science, engineering, computer science, and mathematics. Many REUs are quite prestigious, and almost all of them compensate students very fairly for their time. Furthermore, the research you conduct with an REU team may result in co-authorship of a paper!

Research Positions: If you’re not ready the application season that an REU entails, there are other ways to score a research position. Many hospitals are looking for visiting researchers; I learned everything I know about biostatistics by working for one. If you’re looking for a position closer to home, look around at your own university. Your institution’s professors will continue working in their labs or libraries when the final school bell stops ringing. By cultivating relationships with such professors and demonstrating a genuine interest in their research, you might obtain an invite to come on board.

These are all great ways to stay focused in the summer, ensuring you stay on track. Working in a STEM field or in research will remind you that you strive for dedication and drive—inside the classroom and out.

Photo from the National Science Foundation: check out the opportunities!

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