One of the perks of college is getting out of school for the summer earlier than when you were in high school. And since beginning college in the summer of 2017, this is my first summer with no classes! I am ecstatic simply because I have so many plans to make this summer productive and fun at the same time.

Making the most of your summer as a college student is something I would strongly recommend because I have found that it pays off in the end. I started college the summer before my first fall semester through the VCU Summer Scholars program for first-gen students. It was a huge head start for the student I have grown to become today. I then mentored for that same program the following summer while also taking a class. This summer will still be busy, though: I am part of a research lab with a graduate school professor and I will be mentoring for the summer program again, volunteering, and working.

To all my fellow first-gens out there, I encourage you to make the most of your summers, too. Look into programs that you can be a part of. Volunteer. Join a research lab. Take a summer course or two. I know it sounds like you are giving away your summer to academics, especially when you could be working full time, but one summer or two will not hurt and it can really help you out in the long run. Especially if you are looking into graduate school. I remember going on a grad school tour through the TRIO program this past fall and I was thinking the whole time they spoke about doing a “research internship with a grad school professor” during the summer. I sat there and rolled my eyes because I was thinking “I don’t want to give up my summer free time to a research lab.” But here I am, taking their valuable advice and looking forward to it!

There is nothing wrong with sharing some of your summer with academics. Know your limits and don’t take on too much because hitting burn out is possible, but if you are up for the challenge, find a way to make the most of your summer in an academic way.