CARTOONIt’s that time of year again. In just a week, final exams will be over and most of the students will go home.

While most look at summer as a time to relax or save money, it’s also an important time and opportunity for growing, both personally and professionally.

The summer vacation, should students opt for taking a break instead of slogging through summer classes, isn’t really about taking a break. It is an opportunity to be productive—to have a job and make some money. But it’s also an opportunity to try some new things in the field you’re studying. Not only will it round out your resume, but it also gives you a chance to discover what you like and don’t like about yourself or your current major. 

If you decide that what you are doing isn’t for you it’s is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is better you learn that now, before you’ve committed several more years of college to something that might not be for you.

If you do take a job, keep a few things in mind. 

First, it’s easy to get trapped in the high school mindset, where all you’re after is a job that provides you with money. 

There’s more to it than that now. Sure, you want the job that provides the best wage you can get, but there’s also something else to consider: the opportunity costs. 

Opportunity costs are the idea that you consider the alternatives to what you want to do to get a bigger picture of the “relative value” of something. 

Let’s say you’re tasked with buying clothes for interviewing for an internship or summer job. You think you have a chance at the job and you really want to wow your prospective employer with how professional you are. But you only have $100 to get dressed head-to-toe. 

Depending on your gender, this can be a bit more difficult. You may have some elements of the outfit on hand, but they don’t match with the affordable options on your local department store’s clearance racks. So what do you do? Spend all $100 on a brand new matching outfit or spend $80 on a new shirt and tie and go to thrift shopping for new slacks? What is that $20 worth to you at that time?

The same idea applies to opportunities you have during the summer.

Sure, you might make more money going back to your regular restaurant job at Cracker Barrel, Logan’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, but you give up the opportunity to work an entry-level job in your profession, such as a freelance correspondent for your community newspaper. 

It pays less, or it may not even pay at all, but if you don’t take the entry-level job you miss the opportunity to get your foot in the door.

Isn’t the wiser decision to forgo the restaurant job now, take the entry-level career job and make more money in the future through earning potential? That’s the question every student has to think about and make a decision on when it comes to summer jobs.

If you end up working in a field you’re studying and you enjoy it that can also open up opportunities once the campus becomes lively again in the fall. You could have the ability to use what you learned during the summer to benefit not just the campus, but also the community of Richmond. 

The city is billed as having more than 31,000 residents, but nearly 5,000 are added through students staying in the dorms, so the demand for resources and workers grows on the city. 

Unless you grew up in an urban area, I’m sure Richmond has more opportunities while you’re here in college than you would have at home.

If you reach your senior year and graduate with a high GPA, while working a 20 to 30 hour part-time job in the career field for your major, it really shows that you have a good ability to multitask and you have more than just a high GPA alone.

Ultimately, opportunity costs but it could provide a payout in your future. Don’t waste your summer, get out, experience life.