4 ways to stay in the mix this summer

By Alexandra Sumner

To say this last semester has been a bit different is an understatement. Across the country, millions of people have been sequestered in their homes, businesses have shut down and students of all ages shifted to E-learning.

At the collegiate level, the stress of difficult coursework is compounded with the stress of online lectures, no in-person contact with professors or peers and maybe even returning home to live with mom and dad for a while. This has been no ordinary spring.

If, in the wake of coronavirus chaos, you were unable to secure an internship: Don’t worry. Below are four ways you can use your summer productively to keep yourself on track for a long, successful career. 

1, Take online classes. If your law school has the option, enroll in online classes to give yourself a head start next semester. When choosing which classes to take, consider: your credit requirements, any prerequisites for the course, who normally teaches it in person (and whether you’d prefer to take it with him/her), how much time you can reasonably expect to devote to studying, and your general interest in the subject.

Important note: Be sure to discuss your plans to take summer classes with your school’s financial aid director. Government disbursed loans based on need are (typically) only allowed to be applied to two semesters per calendar year, so using your loan money to pay for summer classes may end up hurting you in the fall if you don’t plan ahead.

2. Volunteer at local legal services non-profit. If you are unable to secure a paying internship but you’d still like to have a significant amount of experience under your belt before graduating, consider volunteering at a local legal services agency or non-profit.

Where spots are limited, you may have to apply and be approved (potentially even with a background check), but if the agency has a lot of cases without a lot of hands, you may be brought in immediately. At the end of your time volunteering you’ll likely have a wealth of experience, great connections at the agency and even a letter of recommendation (if you’re lucky.

3. Get a summer job to save up money. Another way to help yourself during the fall semester is to save up as much money as you can to help pay for books, groceries, a bar prep plan (which you can start paying on as early as your 1L fall), and even bar application fees.

By putting money aside to dedicate to those expenses, you save yourself the stress of working long hours during the fall while also putting yourself on great financial footing so that you don’t stress about money throughout the semester. This advice is especially suited for those who went directly from college to law school; those who haven’t had the opportunity to work a full-time job yet, and who are living on student loans and instant mashed potatoes. Money makes everything easier, including law school.

4. Focus on mental and physical health. I know this sounds like a lame suggestion, but working on your mental and physical health during your “down” time is both incredibly helpful and productive. When you do take the bar (be it one or five semesters down the road) you’re going to want to be in the best mental and physical condition of your life.

Use this upcoming summer to find a fitness activity you love — and get good at it. Go to therapy if you feel it would benefit you, there are many online therapists adapting to the pandemic, use that to your advantage. Before going back in the fall, focus on what you want and why: make a list of what’d you like to achieve and how you’re going to do it: start working at it now. While it may not seem like it, you have a luxury of time this summer: which may not happen again until retirement. It’s ok to pause, relax, and recover every once in a while.

While the times may be difficult for everyone, we can all agree that law students across the world have been put in a unique position. If you weren’t able to secure a summer internship this year, just know that it wasn’t your fault and that employers are certainly going to take that into consideration going forward.

As much as I hate people saying it, our new normal is going to look drastically different from what it has been. You and all your classmates have gone through a tremendous upheaval this semester: Maybe you didn’t get the grades you wanted or the job you wanted, but that doesn’t mean greatness isn’t around the corner. You just have to keep fighting for it.

Alexandra Sumner is a recent graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.