Many university courses and apprenticeships require candidates to have specific skills or experiences and the summer break can be the perfect time to get yourself prepared. Here are six tips for making the most out of your summer:
1. Summer jobs
Never underestimate the importance of part-time or full-time work. Communication, teamwork, drive and energy can all be evidenced in many jobs, whether or not the job itself is mundane.
If you haven't already, it is imperative that you put together a CV, to present all of your previous employment and experience. Most companies will ask for this when hiring. Use Unifrog’s CV tool to make this process straightforward.
Start looking in May for summer jobs, because there is often a lot of competition for the best positions. Some useful websites are: Student Job, Just Student Jobs, E4S Student Jobs and GumTree. Check newspapers, social media, your local Job Centre or ads in windows of shops/restaurants.
2. Work experience
Work experience is the perfect way to get a taste of a future career, whilst also acquiring more useful material for a CV or Personal Statement. Particularly if you are applying for a degree course such as Medicine, Veterinary Sciences or Law, work experience is an essential part of your application.
Some companies, such as British Red Cross or HSBC, offer work experience schemes specifically for 16-18 year olds. However, for most placements you will need to make your own contacts by emailing companies directly with a copy of your CV, and writing a few paragraphs about yourself and why you would be interested in gaining some experience, as well as explaining what you could bring to them.
Volunteering is a really good way to mix with people outside of your school and develop your interpersonal skills. There are many websites to help find opportunities, such as Volunteering England. For local opportunities try YouthNet UK, and for international volunteering check out WorldWide Volunteering (WWV). Alternatively, National Citizenship Service, is a low cost, three-week team building and volunteer programme in the UK run by the government.
Whether overseas or on your doorstep, volunteering can be a rewarding way to meet new people and learn different skills, as well as making an excellent addition to your CV.
4. Extracurricular study
Get ready to apply to university by boosting your academic credentials over the summer. This will prepare you for your future studies as well as giving you content to discuss in your Personal Statement.
You won’t have enough time to learn everything about your subject so look for a specific topic that you find interesting then conduct your own research. For example, I was interested in French cinema so I studied the work of a French director then wrote about my findings in my Personal Statement.
Look for ways to explore your subject which appeal to you. If you want to study Zoology at university and you enjoy photography, perhaps start a wildlife photography blog. Listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, attend open lectures, read books and articles: anything that you find interesting could be discussed in your Personal Statement or at a future interview.
There are free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) available in almost every field of study, from languages to computer programming, so they are a great way to expand your knowledge outside of the curriculum. Use Unifrog’s MOOCs tool to find the best courses for you.
Evaluate everything you learn and try to form your own opinions on it. Admissions tutors will be impressed by your independent research skills and curiosity for the subject.
5. Other opportunities
Exchange programmes and summer schools are a great way to work independently, away from home, surrounded by students your own age - in other words, perfect preparation for university. Here are some examples of the opportunities on offer:
- Youth exchange
- Rotary Club International: Exchanges for students 15 to 19 years old are sponsored by Rotary clubs in more than 100 countries.
- Lions Club International: Youth camp and exchange sponsored by local lions clubs.
- Summer schools
- Sutton Trust: foundation which improves social mobility in the UK through evidence-based programmes, such as UK summer schools and USA programmes.
6. Don't forget - record it
Record all your activities, paid or voluntary, in or out of school. Use Unifrog’s Activities tool to make the recording process straightforward. Having a detailed record makes for much easier CV writing and university application form filling.