Planning Your Summer

Summers during college are an exciting time to explore your interests, build skills and clarify your future career goals. As you start to plan how you can spend your summer, keep in mind:

  • You can build your own experience, mixing and matching options to find what works for you
  • Be flexible and proactive
  • Your summer plans are your own; everyone’s search is unique based on their own priorities
How do I get started?

Consider your goals and what types of activities you find exciting and engaging. Reflect on the following questions:

  • How do I want to spend my time over the three months of summer break?
  • What did I not have time to do/experience during the school year?
  • What is on my bucket list to do while in college and could I accomplish any of those things this summer?
  • What makes sense for me given other priorities in my life right now?

This is also a good time to consider your career goals. Your answers to these questions can help you determine your focus areas for summer: 

  • Which career fields am I curious about?
  • What interests, values and causes motivate me?
  • What skills do I want to gain or enjoy using?
  • What can I do this summer that moves me toward one or more of my goals?
  • How do I chart progress toward my goals?

Consider a range of options that may match your long- and short-term goals. Examples of summer opportunities to help you build experience and that you can add to your resume include: 

  • Part-time or seasonal role near home
  • Internship (virtual or in-person)
  • Freelance or temporary work, such as short-term work projects or projects you can create on your own by networking
  • Classes or self-study on topics that interest you
  • Independent projects
  • Conducting career research
  • Job shadowing and seeking out informational conversations with alumni or people who work in roles that interest you
  • Creating an online portfolio of your work

Allow yourself to think creatively about where your goals could lead you. Once you have identified goals, it’s time to put your goals into action

How do I explore the types of careers and fields that fit me?
I’m interested in an internship/job for the summer. What opportunities does Princeton have for students?

There is a wide variety of summer opportunities (both work and research) available through Princeton. Since these programs are available only to Princeton students — and often include funding and professional development — we encourage you to start by familiarizing yourself with them.

How should I start to look outside of Princeton for a summer internship/job?

Start by researching employers and industries that interest you. Browse industry-specific career guides and interview tips on Vault. 

Hiring processes vary across industries and employers. Some recruit at a set time every year while others hire throughout the year on an as-needed basis. Familiarize yourself with recruiting timelines relevant to your industries of interest. 

Use multiple sites when searching for internships. We recommend starting with Handshake, CareerShift and industry-specific search sites. Examples of posting sites include:

If applicable, consider diversity recruitment programs offered by some employers, which aim to address gaps in the workforce. 

Internship searches take time and often entail applying to many positions before securing an offer, so start early. It is common to receive an offer for one role while in the interview process for another. Unlike with colleges, employers do not usually let applicants know all their decisions at the exact same time

How can the Center for Career Development help me in my summer search?

The Center for Career Development is available to support all students throughout their search process.

We offer one-on-one advising, events, recruiting opportunities, guides and other resources to help students identify, explore and pursue experiences during their time at Princeton and beyond. 

You can schedule an appointment with a career adviser to discuss your individual circumstances and to help you plan your summer. Advisers are available during academic breaks and the summer for appointments. 

How do I start to prepare application documents and prepare for interviews?

The Center for Career Development offers multiple resources and can assist you with:

  • Updating your Handshake and LinkedIn profiles, and your resume. Add new skills, volunteering, internship and/or research projects. 
  • Creating or refining your application documents and using the resume and cover letter guides, or by meeting with a career adviser. Your applications should be thoughtful, with a resume and cover letter tailored to the specific positions and organizations. 
  • Creating a search tracker to keep yourself organized. 
  • Preparing for interviews by reviewing the Interview Guide and/or meeting with a career adviser
  • Meeting employers interested in hiring Princeton students at Center for Career Development events including: 
    • The HireTigers Career Fair in the fall and spring semesters
    • Information sessions, which are presentations from recruiters and representatives from organizations who talk about their recruiting processes, workplace culture and upcoming opportunities. 

Coffee chats, which are one-on-one conversations with a representative from a company/organization in which you can ask questions about them. While it is not a formal recruiting program, a coffee chat does provide a chance to explore career options and start to develop a network.

How do I find remote/virtual opportunities?
  • Search for freelance projects or temporary work. Online opportunities span many categories, including copywriting/editing, design, tech, marketing, social media, development, customer support and more. 
  • Consider remote work that may currently be in high demand, such as virtual tutoring.
  • Search Handshake and other posting sites using keywords like "virtual," "telecommute" or "remote". If you're searching on CareerShift, you can use the "Search Remote and Work From Home Jobs" filter.

Remote work opportunities available through the Princeton Student Employment Site.

What should I do if I’ve been applying to things but not hearing back?

It often takes time for employers to review applications and get back to candidates. Employers have different processes; some review applications and contact candidates as they apply, while others wait until after their deadline to start their review process. Typically it will take employers at least a week or two to schedule an interview after they begin their review processes. 

If you’re curious about status of your application, you can

  • Check in Handshake if that is how you applied. You can find this by clicking on the circle with your initials in the top right corner and click “Applications.”
  • Get in touch with a recruiter directly. To find recruiters’ contact information on Handshake, find the employer’s profile page and review the “Contact Information” or “Public Staff List” sections. You may find contact information for people or departments. 
  • You can also find recruiters' contact information on LinkedIn or on CareerShift, which has a search function for contact information for employees at millions of organizations. 
  • Schedule an appointment with a career adviser if you have concerns about the effectiveness of your application materials.
Can I gain experience through volunteerism?
How can I develop new skills on my own?

Self-study 

  • Set up a study plan to define your goals, track progress and stay accountable. 
  • Search and apply for external funding through grants, fellowships and awards in your desired field. Prepare your proposal(s) and ask for feedback from advisers and faculty. 
  • Schedule virtual study sessions with friends.
  • Enroll in summer courses, through sites such as Coursera, EdX or Udemy, or a local community college or four-year university.
  • LinkedIn Learning offers free courses for Princeton students in creative, business and tech fields.
  • Learn a new language or become more proficient through free access to Rosetta Stone from the Princeton University Library.

Independent projects

  • Consider what you didn’t have time to do during the school year that you still want to pursue or explore and build a project around it.
  • Get a head-start on research for your senior thesis or junior paper. 
  • Consider computer programming/web/app development projects.
  • Create an independent, low-budget arts/music/film/design project or vlog. Opportunities in these areas could qualify for funding through the Lewis Center for the Arts. Proposals for Lewis Center funding are usually due by early spring.
  • Start a writing project or blog on a topic you are passionate about.
  • Create and polish your portfolio with examples of how you use and develop your top skills. Portfolios can be used in future interviews.
How can networking help me in my search?

Networking is an important component for any job or internship search. Conversations with alumni and other professionals can help you learn about their career paths, get inside knowledge about an industry or organization and provide ideas and advice on your next career opportunity. You can get started by: 

  • Reading profiles of alumni working in fields that interest you on Career Compass site. You can send emails to alumni through the site to connect for further one-on-one conversations.
  • Signing up for a Career Chat, which matches you with alumni who are interested in speaking with students about their careers and providing advice. 
  • Searching LinkedIn to identify Princeton alumni and professional networking groups, join online discussions and webinars. 
  • Find tips on how to identify and contact alumni and employers in the Networking Guide.
  • Searching TigerNet to identify alumni working in your areas of interest. 

Your potential network extends beyond just Princeton alumni and can include faculty, peers, staff, friends, family, past supervisors and coworkers, and leaders in your local community. 

Asking your contacts to connect you with people they know who work in fields of interest to you is an effective way to build your network. Here are other ways to incorporate networking in your search:

  • When contacting alumni and others, ask about opportunities or share that you recently applied to a position there. 
  • Use CareerShift to find contact information for employees at millions of organizations. 
  • Use this template to keep track of your networking efforts. 
  • Think about where you have previously worked or volunteered and contact them to see if they have summer job openings.
  • Identify professional associations — which often offer student memberships — in your field of interest for online workshops, resources, and virtual conferences. 
What should I do if I’m interested in applying to graduate school?
  • Review the Graduate School Guide for tips on searching and applying.
  • Start to research universities and programs that interest. Visit or inquire about virtual tours and information sessions.
  • Consider taking an online GMAT, MCAT, GRE or LSAT prep course, or devoting time to your own self-study to prepare for these exams.