As the spring semester comes to a close, college students everywhere are being asked the same question: What are you doing this summer? Some students boast of luxury vacations to exotic countries, an excellent option in my opinion—if you have the money to pay for it. (If you have an extra plane ticket, I would love to come. I’m clean, quiet, and great with moms!) Others discuss grandiose internships or prestigious research opportunities; they may have no clue what their responsibilities will be, but you can bet it’s better than whatever you will be doing. At the very least, people have plans of working all summer long to finance their education and recreation the following school year.
Regardless of your exact plan, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that you must have one. For some reason, it’s become an unacceptable answer to just say you are going home. In pre-college years, summer meant time off of school, free from expectations and stress. Somehow, the attitude surrounding summers in college has made it the opposite. There are relentless expectations put on students to make something of your summer, gain experience, make money, network, or prepare yourself to enter the real world.
Students get trapped in a summertime résumé-building frenzy. During the year, it’s easy to delude ourselves with the feeling that we are doing “enough.” Focusing on clubs and our grades gives us the feeling that we are working hard and keeping up during the school year. The summer, on the other hand, boasts complete freedom and the assumption that you will do something of value with it. That is a lot of pressure for someone who is barely making it through the second semester alive. A time that was once intended for some much needed R&R is now even more daunting than the school year.
The pressure to prepare for life in the real world has invaded our college life and stolen our sacred summers. The college experience has become less of a cherished life milestone and more of an aggressive launch pad to move you to the next phase of life as fast as possible. It’s like a moving walkway at the airport traveling at hyperspeed; you’re expected to work, excel in school, and make lasting memories, all while preparing yourself for the gut-wrenching reality that the end of the walkway is coming up quick.
My parents reminisce about their college days often, and they continually remind me to cherish college because it is an experience you only get for four short years. I’ve only been in college for a little less than a year and I already feel like my foot is halfway out the door. Why is it that before I even felt settled in my first semester classes, people were already stressing about getting the perfect summer internship that would balance their résumé?
This heightened emphasis on appearing as the “ideal applicant” for post-graduation programs or jobs has caused everyone to become copied-and-pasted versions of a generic LinkedIn profile. No one seems to do anything out of sheer enjoyment; there is always an ulterior motive of how it will help them succeed. While there is nothing wrong with working hard to get what you want, altering yourself to be what someone else wants should never be your priority.
College will be over and you will be spending the rest of your life facing adult problems before you know it. Why rush to get there? I say we take back our summers. Don’t stress about measuring up to expectations and instead spend your summer doing something that you will genuinely enjoy. I hate to break it to you, but unless you plan on being a teacher, summer breaks are pretty much unheard of after college. Let’s enjoy them while we can!