Frosh-cessities: A guide to summer opportunities

“So… what are you doing this summer?” — maybe the worst question since that dreaded “Where are you heading next year?” you might have gotten from relatives, your dentist, or strangers your senior year of high school.

Have no idea where to start your search? Have no idea people did things over the summer? Blog has you covered with an overview of some different options, especially for you precocious but overwhelmed first-years.

Taking Classes

Some students stay at Brown to take classes over the summer. It’s a great opportunity to take a class you might not have time for in your normal schedule during the year, or to get a concentration requirement out of the way. Despite the shorter term, each class counts as a full course credit because they meet more frequently. You can take up to two courses a summer, and up to four summer classes can count towards your degree. Classes are paid à la carteHere’s the current course catalogue for Summer 2016. Pre registration for summer courses runs from April 1 – 21.

You can also take classes at another university and petition for transfer credit. This needs to be arranged through the Dean of the College, because Brown’s course hours might not match up with the other school. If you’d like to get credit counted towards your concentration, you should double check with the department, because often departments are strict on what courses can fulfill a Brown equivalent.

RISD classes are also offered during the summer. Note that while RISD classes are included in Brown tuition for the Fall, Winter, and Spring terms, Summer classes are not included. More information hereUp to four RISD classes can count towards your Brown degree.

If you’re sticking around Brown for the summer, whether for classes, research, an internship, or something else, you can pay for Brown summer housing, or get a sublet in the neighborhood (there are always many options available, as juniors and seniors who live off campus desperately want to find subletters). You can also apply to be a Summer@Brown residential assistant (for high school students) and live in dorms over the summer for free. Many students enjoy spending the summer in Providence, for the free concerts and events, the warm weather, or for the change in pace and community from during the year.

Doing Research

Many departments, such as Biology, CLPS, CS, International Relations, among many others, have labs and programs open to undergraduate researchers (during the year and in the summer). These positions are often set up by talking to individual professors you have had or know. Professors often have their research interests and projects listed on their personal website or their department’s website. Some paid summer research positions are also listed on JobMail towards the spring.

You can also do research independently at another college or with a research group. The National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program connects students with projects at different colleges (some REU programs are offered at Brown in different departments), many of which are open to first-year students. You can search for programs/sites by discipline. Just checking on various colleges’ department sites is helpful to see what is available and the necessary requirements for positions. Interning as an undergraduate researcher is great opportunity — it’s often very hands on and geared can provide you with a lifelong mentor in your projected field.

Study Abroad/Programs

The summer’s also a great time to study abroad or do an international program. Brown offers some summer programs that count for transfer course credit at Brown. This summer, The Office of International Programs is offering programs in Bologna, St. Petersburg, Dublin, and Comillas.


Many students look for internships over the summer, paid or unpaid, which can provide experience in their field and help to find opportunities and jobs in the future. Many internships are available for first-year students, and you are definitely qualified! I remember thinking last year “Who would ever hire any of us after only one year of college?” but many companies welcome first and second-year students, and there are some programs designed for first-year students in particular.

The CareerLAB’s Job and Internship Board (JIB) lists internships from companies recruiting on campus. You can search for positions you are eligible for and apply to get an on-campus interview through the site. In addition, last semester the CareerLAB launched “Project 2019,” a series of programs, workshops, and events geared specifically to help the Class of 2019 get started with the CareerLAB’s resources and to find summer internships.

Finding opportunities through Brown alumni is also a good idea! BrownConnect is a platform the CareerLAB launched last year to connect current students with Brown alumni for mentorship, advice, and contacts. You can search for internships on the site (some are marked as Brown specific), or just search for alumni in your desired field(s) to pick their brains.

One of the best ways to find internships is through ~networking~. Think of different people you might know that are in related fields to what you are interested in! Teachers, summer jobs, relatives, parents or alumni from your high school. Creating a list of possible “leads” can be a good starting point. Then, email these contacts in kind of a pseudo-cover letter — updating them how you are, summarizing your interests, and asking if they know if their company or someone they know is looking for any interns this summer. Attaching your résumé for context can be helpful.

Cold emailing companies you do not have a prior contact with can also work. Search for companies in your city or nearby, and then email the contact info listed on their website. It’s good to cast a wide net and see who you get responses from. That being said, don’t be discouraged if a majority of these attempts are not fruitful.

Now is also a good time to prepare or update résumés and LinkedIns. This is particularly necessary if you are thinking of applying for internships, but is also just good to set up so you can update them later throughout Brown. The CareerLAB has some useful resources to creating/updating a résumé, setting up a LinkedIn profile, and writing Cover Letters when applying for positions. The CareerLAB also holds Peer Advisor Open Hours during the semester, where you can drop in to have one of the advisors take a look at your résumé, cover letter or LinkedIn profile with you.

Funding Resources

Some research and internship opportunities are paid or with a stipend, which is great! Unpaid internships or research programs can be good opportunities for experience, but can (obviously) be tough in terms of housing/transportation/making ends meet.

For unpaid or low-paying internships, the CareerLAB has the LINK program which provides funding resources for students. The first round applications are due March 11.

For unpaid research experiences, Brown has the UTRA (Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards), which provides funding for students who want to do a research or teaching project over the summer with a professor. They provide stipends for students doing research in the U.S. or abroad (as well as during the semester at Brown). The deadline for the summer UTRA awards is February 10.

Some departments also offer funding grants to concentrators doing research or internships related to the field.

Something else!

A lot of people don’t do an internship or program and stay around home for the summer, so do not feel pressure to look for something if you do not want to. Looking for things to do close to home is common, whether it’s a local internship or volunteer opportunity or a summer job (how about working at a gas station in Glacier National Park?). It’s also great just to chill at home with family and friends — a definitely well-deserved break. Remember, there are no prescribed routes you have to take this summer, it’s all up to you!

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