Summer as important as semesters in school

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As a native of Chicago, a city known for its weather, the onset of each season represented a specific time for me. For the first 16 years of my life, the beginning of summer generally signalled that rest, relaxation, sleep and, frankly, laziness were right around the corner.

As my 17th summer approached, with the dry weather came a dry wallet, my parents -- ahem -- I realized it was time to spend my time more wisely. This meant getting a job or preparing academically for college.

Looking back, I can't say I was wildly successful in achieving either of my goals that summer. I applied too late for a variety of jobs, none of which even called me back. The "lucky" people to get jobs had enough foresight to apply before the school year ended.

My alternate plan of preparing for college never really left the backburner, as I was unsure of what I was even going to college for at the time.

By the time I got into college, it was evident that summer no longer could be taken lightly. In a way, I view summers as important as school semesters. Summers gave me the opportunity to bolster my resume or save money on tuition by taking college courses at a lower price and transferring the credits.

As a journalism major, I found that getting internships was the most valuable way to set myself up for future summers and my post-collegiate career.

As a first-year college student, there was no applicable experience to list on my resume for the field of journalism, so I shot for small-time internships just to get the ball rolling.

My university's counselors and advisers made it easy to apply for internships. Due to the relatively small population of students in the journalism school, the college would receive emails from prospective employers looking for help. As soon as I saw an enticing internship, I pounced on the opportunity and landed an internship as a university campus representative/blogger with a startup website that hosted daily fantasy sports contests.

While that internship wasn't paid, it was something I could at least list on my resume in addition to doing some extra writing in the summer.

The following summer I decided to shave some of the cost off my tuition by taking college courses for credits at a nearby community college.

I also had decided to start a public blog in order to continue practicing my craft and do my own personal reporting on events such as concerts. Starting my own blog allowed me to diversify my writing, as I covered multiple topics encompassing sports, music and fashion. Through my blog, I developed the skills to produce columns, news and reviews.

By the time the next summer rolled around, I secured an internship as a social media manager for a local wind energy company. One of the main reasons I was able to land the internship was I started searching early in the fall semester.

A lot of employers set application deadlines for December, January and February; some even for November. So, I started searching for the following summer during October and November.

Overall, the key is to be active when expected not to be. Whether it's creating a solid resume that appeals to employers or simply adding credits, either of these options can net extra cash in your pocket.

education

Blake Pon is a senior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, majoring in news-editorial journalism.


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