Summer Opportunities Guide
What can I do this summer?
With chances to pursue your personal and academic interests through internships, study abroad, public service, or spending time with friends and family, there’s something for everyone. There is no magic formula or “right” way to spend your summers during your time at Harvard College. While it’s exciting to be able to take advantage of a multitude of academic and professional offerings, there is also value in being able to take a break and use the summer to recharge. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything or anything!
How do I know which opportunity is right for me?
There are a multitude of ways to pursue your interests during the summer. Before foraying into the realm of possibilities, determine your personal, professional, and academic goals. Ask yourself questions, narrow down your interests, and seek out more information about opportunities that interest you. Some questions you should consider to help inform your decision include:
- What are my overall academic goals?
- What are some interests I have yet to explore?
- What are some interests I want to explore further?
- What programs, companies, organizations, or institutions align with my values?
- What opportunities can I pursue now and which ones may be for term-time or future summers?
- What do I need for my health and well-being?
You can discuss your potential summer opportunities with career advisors at the Mignone Center for Career Success (MCS), your academic advisors, your Peer Advising Fellows (PAFs), faculty members, advisors at the Office for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URAF), advisors at the Office for International Education (OIE), Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) staff, Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship staff, student group leaders, proctors and tutors, Resident Deans, and Faculty Deans. All of these advisors in your network will have unique experiences and perspectives that they can share with you. They can help guide you to the opportunities that might be the best fit for your interests, but ultimately the decision will be up to you!
Where do I begin?
It’s helpful to get a broad understanding of what opportunities exist, what they entail, and what offices facilitate them.
Taking a break
Summer break is designed to be just that: a break. Your time at Harvard can be challenging, and as such, you should feel empowered to take the time to recharge and gear up for the school year ahead. During the summer, ensure that you are eating well, getting enough rest, and doing things to energize your mind and body.
Here are five benefits associated with rest:
- Rest improves your memory
- Rest will boost your energy
- Rest will help you reduce stress
- Rest improves your overall health
- Rest can boost performance and creativity
Traveling, spending quality time with loved ones, taking some time to get outdoors, checking off items on your bucket list, and resting can be some of the most beneficial things you can do to improve your overall health and ability to fully show up and engage the following fall semester. Don't feel bad about leaving your summer open. Downtime is essential to help you avoid college burnout!
Research is motivated by a question that prompts further exploration, sometimes by faculty members and sometimes by students. At Harvard, undergraduates are guided by a mentor during their summer research experience and depending on the scale of the project, you might be working alone or with a team. You can conduct research in any field and within any concentration.
Summer Study at Harvard Summer School
Harvard Summer School has classes over the summer that may provide credit towards your Harvard degree within the seven-week session. All classes are taught by Harvard faculty and visiting experts and offer a challenging, yet rewarding, academic experience. Summer School courses are not restricted to Harvard College students, they may include high school students, students from other colleges and universities, graduate students, and other adult learners.
Summer Study Abroad
Studying abroad is an integral part of the Harvard experience, and allows you to earn academic credit through coursework taken around the world. Opportunities for studying abroad during the summer can be found through the Harvard Summer School or through the Office of International Education. Programs vary in length, from four to twelve weeks, and provide a range of academic experiences and opportunities, from language-intensive and culturally-focused courses, to immersive study of location-specific topics in the humanities, social sciences, engineering, and natural sciences.
You may earn up to eight credits for a summer abroad.
Harvard students can engage in meaningful community service throughout their college experience. Over 300 opportunities are offered through the Phillips Brooks House, a vibrant and growing organization that offers summer programming based in volunteering and community activism to allow students to use knowledge and tools to face the challenges facing our community.
Internships provide the opportunity to participate in professional and learning-based work that provides a meaningful and practical experience in a field of interest or study. Internships may be paid or unpaid, vary in length, and nature of the work. They can also vary in format – in person, hybrid, or virtual. All, however, result in learning new skills, gaining new experiences, and exploring career options. Most interns are at a beginner's stage in their profession so it is totally expected and accepted that you might not have previous experience in that field.
Internship opportunities are available through different programs or centers. Crimson Careers is the best starting point and the central repository for internship offerings. You can also reach out directly to alumni, companies, start-ups, organizations, etc. that are, or are not, Harvard affiliated. The following resources are helpful to start your search:
A summer job is an opportunity to earn some money, learn how to navigate a workplace, build your resume, and expand your skills beyond the classroom. Summer jobs often require an interested student to do regional research on employers that have availability, the type of work they are interested in, and tend to follow a more traditional work application process. If you are looking for a summer job with a Harvard-affiliated office, the Student Employment Office is a great resource to find positions available for students to take advantage of in the summer and beyond.
Who should I talk to about summer opportunities?
Once you’ve asked and answered some of these questions, you can take the conversation further and reach out to various offices and individuals to aid you in your planning. This includes:
Through conversations with dedicated staff, faculty, and peers, you can further your understanding of the opportunities you would like to pursue and how to do so. Some experiences may be most appropriate at different times in your academic journey, so it’s important to explore your options and utilize the resources available to get the full picture.
Summer: Start thinking about what opportunities you are interested in pursuing and what the timelines for each opportunity are. Some programs start the recruiting process as early as the prior summer and many employer internship recruiting activities begin in the Fall for the following summer.
Fall: Consider scheduling meetings with your advisors (academic/concentration advisor, MCS/OIE advisor, or any appropriate advisor) to discuss the upcoming summer, opportunities you are interested in, how to approach planning and applying to different ones.
Make a list of all the programs you are interested in and include the deadlines for each. If there are applications due during the fall term, coordinate with your advisor to apply for them*. This is a good time to identify and reach out to individuals for letters of recommendations. The MCS Summer Opportunities and Funding Fair usually takes place in early December and is a good place to see what experiences and funding are available.
First Year Students: You should begin to think about opportunities you are interested in pursuing and the timelines for each. Meet with advisors to discuss programs, applications, and deadlines. Make sure to attend the Summer Opportunities and Funding Fair.
November-February: Start drafting essays and applications for opportunities you are interested in pursuing. Make use of the resources and advisors that helped you identify opportunities to proofread and edit your essays. Get your resume and cover letters reviewed by MCS advisors during drop-in hours.
January-May: Many applications will be due in this timeframe and interviews will quickly follow. While some opportunities will make the review timeline very clear, others may not reply to your application at all or have a very slow turnaround. It is important to try to have options and back-up plans as you apply to maximize your chances of securing a summer opportunity.
*Deadlines for funding and specific opportunities can greatly vary depending on what type of funding you are seeking and the timing of the program you are applying to. See the funding section of this guide to get more information on different grants, scholarships, and funding applications.
Sometimes you will land an opportunity that is paid or funded. Other times you may find an opportunity that is right for you, but it is unpaid. Though funding is limited, there are many avenues to fund your opportunity through Harvard channels. You can learn about some of the funding opportunities available to you through the Mignone Center for Career Success (MCS) funding site. You can also search in CARAT for funding opportunities. Please note that Harvard College students can only accept one Harvard-funded opportunity per summer per the Office of Undergraduate Education Summer Funding Policy.
Still have questions? Check out frequently asked questions below and consider reaching out to your academic advisor.