Make summer of 2016 matter

By Kaitlin Erdman, Student Writer

As we approach the halfway mark of the semester and roll into the summer, many Zips out there may be starting to wonder: how can I make this summer worthwhile? To some it will mean cramming in some extra classes to graduate early. Others may pledge to relax and enjoy four months of freedom.

To many, this is the time to start hunting for a summer job. To many engineering majors, this is the time to start seeking out a summer co-op. But just what is the benefit of a co-op? The summer break is a perfect opportunity for any successful student to take advantage of some school-free time and gain career applicable experience.

If you’re considering an optional summer co-op this year, here are some benefits to keep in mind:

Early co-oping will help you earn experience that will go towards finding you your first assigned co-op. Sometimes a great applicant comes in second for a position because another student already had a co-op or internship experience under their belt. If you have the option to take a summer position as a freshman or sophomore, this opportunity will help you in the long run.

Co-ops and internships help you decide what you enjoy about your major. You don’t want to get to your fourth year of undergrad and realize that you enjoy electrical engineering more than mechanical. If you are undecided about your major, an internship can help you gain insight into what your future career may actually look like. Plenty of students take a co-op assignment and learn what they don’t want to do. Any experience that will help you better define your goals is a great step toward achieving those goals.

Money. Co-ops and internships generally pay higher than your average summer jobs: according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average undergrad intern made $16.21 in 2013. That is a number that keeps increasing as programs grow, and many students will get raises for each successive co-op. This is one of the perks of the engineering program. Co-ops make real money for real work. Whether you need to save up to buy textbooks, pay rent, or just have some extra cash, a co-op is a great way to rake in the paychecks.

If you don’t want the full-time commitment of a co-op weighing you down all summer, there are still opportunities for some resume building. Experience is the key to setting yourself apart from the masses of kids at the career fair, and the more diverse experiences you have to talk about, the better.

Experiences such as volunteer work or mission trips will give you stories to tell about leadership and teamwork skills to potential employers. Getting involved with campus organizations or research opportunities can also build out your resume and showcase your ability to manage your time and work hard. Don’t be the student who stutters on about high school because you havn’t gotten involved in your college experience. Take control of your resume and jump at opportunities that will make you stand out.