The most obvious way to spend your summers is to work a fabled ‘summer job’. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working over the summer, especially if you need the money. However, it would be best to diversify your summer experiences by either working somewhere with flexible hours or simply not working your entire summers. For more on how to maximize what you get out of working for an hourly wage, refer to the employment section. For now, let’s consider the other options.
As for summer employment, there are a number of good opportunities that you could consider. As you look over this list, notice that they all offer some extra value to your life and future Free College Consulting beyond just giving you money. This is an obvious consideration since you want to make the most of your time, so if you decide to work during the summer, you should do something that gives you the most value.
Caddy – If you live anywhere near a private golf course (10-30 minute drive), you would be an absolute fool not to become a summer caddy. Few people know, but a golf caddy is perhaps the greatest method of employment for high school students ever. First of all, there is tremendous potential to make a large amount of money during the summer. Obviously some golf clubs pay more than others, but at the very least you can expect about $40 per round (which takes about 4 hours) as a beginner caddy. As you move up in caddy rank, the highest usually being an ‘honor caddy’, you’ll find yourself making close to $100 per round at many clubs in cash, non-taxed money. I did this in high school and while I only caddied about 30 times per summer, I know some people who caddied close to 100 times (this requires insane dedication) and made close to ten thousand dollars in their summer. The money aside, being a caddy is great because it is the most job you could ever have. You can more or less come whenever you want to because there are always more caddies than golfers. This allows you the freedom to do other productive things during the summer like going on a camp, starting a volunteer project, competing in sports, etc.
If you caddy at a Midwest golf club, chances are that the golf club participates in the Chick Evans Scholarship, which is a full tuition scholarship for exceptional caddies to most big ten schools (including Northwestern). It is perhaps the best scholarship in the nation so if you have the shot to get it, all the more reason to become a caddy.
Start Your Own Business – As an entrepreneur, this is something that I desperately wish I had done. As a student you have a big advantage in free time that adult entrepreneurs often lack. Also, you’re at a point in your life where if you do make a mistake and lose some money, you have the rest of your life to make it back. I spent one of my summers starting an online retail business and it’s something that I talked about in all my job interviews. A good way to go about this is to spend the first month or so of your break reading as much as you can about business and entrepreneurship. Get a feel for how to go about it and at the same time be thinking about a business you could start. Then take the plunge and go for it! If nothing else, it’s a really great thing to put on your application because it shows your initiative and ability to take risk and think for yourself.
Librarian – Working at your local library can be a great opportunity because it’s a job that puts you in close proximity to academia. If you can, try to avoid working at the checkout desks because the redundant task of scanning books all day doesn’t give you much else to talk about. However, if you can land a job in the logistics or operations of the library (sorting books, managing periodicals, working the help desk, etc.), you will have much more free time to explore the library, do your own reading, and take initiative to contribute. For example, you could talk on your college application about how working at the library opened your eyes to academia or literature, and that it inspired an interest in a certain kind of writing. Or, you can look for ways the library could improve its operations and help apply it, which is something that would really impress colleges.
Tutor – Whether it be through a private tutoring company or as a freelancer, nothing says proficiency in something than the ability to teach it. If you are particularly good in math or science, there are usually tutoring centers like Kumon around that are looking for part time tutors or graders (the roles often overlap). Or, if you are skilled at an instrument, writing, or other valuable skill, try going into business for yourself and offering to tutor others at reasonable prices. You can flyer your neighborhood, use your family and friends, and of course social networking to spread the word. If you can pull it off, it would be a great experience to talk about later.
Camp Counselor – Depending on the camp, these jobs can be very well paid and can be very fun for those who enjoy the outdoors and working with younger kids. Working as a camp counselor usually builds a strong tie to a cause or organization (something that can be life changing) and definitely shows leadership skills. Just be prepared to spend a large part of your summer away from home.
Intern – In some very rare occasions you can find a paid internship position, though these opportunities will depend very much on your personal relationships and knowing exactly what you want to do. Save yourself the time of looking for paid internships online because the chances are ridiculously low in this age of fast information that such a great opportunity can be found online. For ways to land a better job, check out the Appendix. It is definitely possible to get a paid internship if you know how and where to look. For example, a friend of mine worked for two summers as an intern for a plastic surgeon because he also wants to be a plastic surgeon. Not only did he get paid, but he learned very relevant information and became good friends with the practicing surgeon. Meanwhile, consider the possibility of doing nonpaid internships to gain some experience for later. Though it’s generally not very valuable for most people to do this other than for a resume builder for college organizations (business fraternity, consulting club, executive board for a relevant club), there are instances where an unpaid internship can be valubale (such as interning at a law firm if your goal is to be a lawyer. It’ll help you build connections and see if you’d truly enjoy the profession).