I am part of the “High School Musical” generation. I know all the songs, can stumble through some of the choreography and I still have a major thing for Zac Efron. Consequently, when I think of summertime, phrases like “school’s out, scream and shout” and “it’s our vacation” quickly come to mind. While it may seem juvenile to take educational advice from a Disney movie, especially when many universities, including the University of Utah, offer summer courses, it is naive to believe that academic and professional growth can only occur on campus. Utilizing summer semester to engage in internships is ultimately more beneficial than enrolling in courses as internships allow students to apply material learned in class and gain work experience in their field of study.
The question “When are we actually going to use this in real life?” is universally hated by professors. While everyone understands that mastery of the course material is necessary to pass classes, it can be difficult to see the actual application of Runge Kutta post-graduation. By engaging in internship opportunities during the summer semesters, college students can begin to leverage class material in industry settings. It is empowering for students to deepen their understanding of past course material and gain a larger perspective for future classes.
It is unrealistic to expect 18 and 19-year-olds to know “what they want to be when they grow up.” Undergraduates often collect and shed majors as they try to determine what they are and are not passionate about. Internships can be a powerful tool to help students decide if their current major is truly what they are interested in pursuing. By joining the workforce, even for just a few months, students can gain mentors outside of academia and insight into what their work may be like. This will increase the overall value of their university education and experience.
Opting to take summertime as a break from school is vital for post-secondary education. The “college experience” is about learning, making connections and self-discovery. Students who participate in summer internships master class material through implementation, gain invaluable industry mentors and are better able to answer the quintessential college question, “What do you want to do after graduation?” Summer courses, while they move students closer to graduation, cannot provide fresh perspectives on coursework or inform career plans.