A summer project is a period spent gaining useful and valuable skills for your university or graduate career. These can be in many fields – from engineering to linguistics, and can even be done abroad.

Though these can be invaluable, applying for them can be difficult and time consuming. This list will hopefully provide some insight into the demands of applying for summer projects and how to navigate them.

1. It’s More Expensive Than You’d Expect

The first, and probably most disheartening, thing you might realise when applying is how much it will cost if you manage to get a project. It’s sad to live in a world where we have to pay to gain experience, but it’s something that needs to be tackled when considering a summer project.

When applying abroad, flight and accommodation costs can be extortionate. Of course, if you’re lucky your summer project or internship will be fully paid for, but you have to remember the additional rent and travel costs you may face. This is when budgeting becomes extra important because, though the application may be free, your time isn’t.

When I applied for my summer project at my university, though the application process was free, the extra hoops I had to jump through to get funding were difficult. I had to write several application letters to different companies and schemes, attach my full CV and academic record and present a project summary. And sadly, despite assistance from my professor, I was rejected, meaning my 9-5 job in the lab is going unpaid.

However, it isn’t all bad news. If you’re lucky enough to get funding or pay, usually it’s a pretty decent amount and easily enough to live off. Lab internships can receive thousands of pounds of funding, and internships for businesses or governments are also usually well paid – so make sure to keep your eye out for paid summer placements or funding opportunities.

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2. Opportunities Might Be Closer Than You Think

One fantastic bonus of trying to find a summer project as a student is the assistance you can get from your university. Sometimes, just a simple email inquiry about summer projects can leave you with several opportunities. Contacting your head of department can be beneficial, as they can then send on your CV or email to others who may be offering summer projects.

Applying within your university can be surprisingly informal. Some lecturers will require a CV – but some require just an email and a scheduled meeting. As they already have access to your records, and might even remember you from lectures, you can save some time and effort when applying closer to home.

And you might even get opportunities in other companies – if you have a facility nearby with close ties to your university, they might be able to arrange a summer project or put you in touch with the right people. With my university connections, it was surprisingly easy to find a summer project right on my doorstep.

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3. A Short Amount of Time Can Mean A Lot

Summer can be a busy time. Some people have holidays planned, some have part-time jobs, and some are just enjoying their downtime. But just a short project, voluntary or paid, can make applications stand out for pretty much any job. Not only have you demonstrated commitment but you may have also gained valuable skills in your field. It might not feel like much, but the responsibility of taking on even a short project can really enhance your employability.

Even just a few weeks can give you enough experience, training and confidence to further your career. Not only does a summer project enhance your CV, but it also gives you a flavour of the environment which you may one day work. Whatever experience you gain could help you make the right choice for your career path in the future.

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4. You Can Make Friends AND Connections

When applying for a summer project, it is important to remember who you’ll be working with. This can be especially important when working abroad – making friends with your colleagues can be really important to help you feel less alone and give you the opportunity to get to know people from all around the world.

In a university environment, you’ll probably be working with your lecturer and other people from your department. If you have an exceptionally big department, this can be an opportunity to make friends with people on your course and make connections with your professors and lecturers.

Even in a business or clinical environment, getting to know your coworkers can do wonders for your career – and make your job just that little more fun.

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5. It’s Surprisingly Fun

After the initial stress of working on CVs, cover letters and transcripts, it is reassuring when you finally have the date in place. This can be arranged around any family holidays you have planned and even coordinated with any part-time jobs you might be doing.

Though it can seem daunting, sometimes it’s nice to have something productive to do with your summer time. Instead of getting bored or working tough hours in a part-time job, you’re spending your summer getting to know your field!

And who knows, you might even enjoy it!

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