Summers for Harvard Students

It is finally that time of the year when Harvard releases its students from the grip of its off-kilter academic calendar, and Harvard students scatter to many parts of the globe to have fun, help others, study abroad and earn marketable skills.

Freshmen are (generally) wonderfully oblivious to the Harvard obsession of “doing something worthwhile” during the summer. They prance through January worrying about books only to realize in February that a number of deadlines have already passed for e-recruiting and grants. (In my opinion, however, this oblivion is generally a good thing for freshmen.)

So, what exactly do Harvard students do during those beautiful summer months? (This is a completely descriptive, non-life-hackery post.)

1) Have fun!

Yes, by golly, this still occurs, I think. Sometimes it happens at home (more often the case for freshmen), other times, it happens at locales such as Spain or India. People generally like to combine a few weeks of “fun” with a few weeks of “saving the world” or “enlightening your mind” or “selling your soul” in various combinations.

After all, you do have all of June, July, August and a week or two of September, depending on how early you want to move in and unpack your stuff (or claim the awesome-er room of the suite).

2) Save the world!

Almost a third of my economics tutorial is literally going to India to help save the world — or in more literal terms, interning at microfinance firms in India. However, saving the world can also occur in Cambridge. Many people get involved with PBHA’s numerous summer housing-provided, sometimes-stipend-ed volunteering programs that help better the community.

Of course, you can’t forget about all those pre-meds and pre-researchers who are staying on campus (usually Leverett or Dewolfe), researching the intricacies of the AIDS virus or (imho) more interestingly beer yeast fermentation. But, being stuck in a lab, doesn’t mean you’re stuck in Boston. A friend of mine is stuck in a lab in Latin America, simultaneously saving the world and enriching her knowledge of Spanish.

3) Enrich your mind!

A popular choice for many people, particularly if you can figure out a way to get Harvard to pay for it. Most obviously, this comes in the form of study abroad programs — think! the glories of Prague for a summer or the real deal! of Cambridge/Oxford (someone please explain to me the difference).

Less apparently, this comes in the forms of applying for grants that will take you to Africa to study textiles or to China to study marketing strategies for luxury brands. For those desiring to write a thesis, summer is an excellent time to ask and receive money to expand your mental horizons.

Never underestimate the power of sheer determination.

4) Sell your soul!

I note this point somewhat-ish (not really) sarcastically. But, with e-recruiting and senior woes during this financial crunch flopping around like mottled vultures, many people feel the strong pressure of finding a summer gig that earns them ([future] money) marketable skills.

Key in: ibanking, consulting, marketing, financial services, programming, design etc. internships.

And while this last category seems like the unfortunate lump of all internships — it actually is. All internships by their v. definition of being appropriately called an “internship” is suppose to instill in the intern valuable “marketable skills” for that particular industry, paid or not.

One thing I should note, however, is that it is only selling your soul if you’d actually rather not do what you’re setting yourself up to do. (Some people really do like Excel spreadsheets that much.)

The unfortunate part about this category is the sheer amount of effort/time/money? that people must undergo in order to obtain an internship.

For instance, the average number of e-recruiting applications for internship positions last year was in the low-twenties, but only 1 in 4 applicants are invited to interview, and only 1 in 4 interviewed are extended an offer. (What is often the case is that it is the same group of people who are always invited to interview.)

But, finding an internship (job) is always difficult. But that’s just a sneak-preview for a different post.

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2 Responses to “Summers for Harvard Students”

  1. 1 soon-to-be-frosh

    This is a great blog with lots of helpful advice. You mentioned that freshman have “fun” during the summer, but do most also seek out internships? How soon can/should a freshman start visiting the OCS to look for internships?

  2. 2 Luyi

    Regarding freshmen, there’s a fair in December that showcases a lot of opportunities available for freshmen, particularly volunteering abroad type gigs.

    A significant portion actually stay and do research on campus — so, a lot of your science kids. There’s a fair amount of study abroad, going to summer school and teaching abroad.

    A fair amount of freshmen do start looking for internships, but as far as e-recruiting goes, you would have to be in the top 5% of the freshmen class to really have a chance. For those who do take internships, a lot of them are back at home, through connections, etc. You can try to find internship opportunities, but do realize that most people looking for internships are juniors. The UCAN network will probably be of the most use to you — which you can ask about come fall.

    Regarding OCS, stop by sometime in the fall semester whenever you have time. A lot of the deadlines hit January and February, and you just want to visit OCS to make sure you know the general timing of things and what resources are available to you.

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