Although not directly related to the college experience, internships play a huge role in your overall career path. Based on what sort of internships you get while still in college, and perhaps more importantly how well you do at them, you can end up with the job of your dreams or be left scrambling for a less prestigious job when you finally do graduate from college. And as an aspect of your college years that is non-existent when compared to your high school years, it is important to examine such internships in more detail.

In your high school years, you were most likely like all the other high school students around the country who were looking forward to Summer each year. And the reason was not for the great weather, but because there was actually no high school during this time. Summer was a time when you could kick back and just enjoy being a kid and recharge your body before going back to school in the fall.

Now when you get to college, although you can technically approach summers with the same mindset, most students do not. Instead, summers are a time for internships, which are basically jobs in which you gain experience in your field of interest. It is partly a supplement to your overall college education, but perhaps more importantly a way to gain connections with potential future employers. Especially for interns who are interning before their senior year of college, employers use internships to essentially audition soon to be new-college graduates. If these interns happen to do a good job at their internship and also fit the company culture, there is a good chance that employers ask them to apply for their company again as a full-time employee during their next recruiting cycle, if not giving them an outright offer at the end of the internship itself.

However, even for students who are still years away from graduating, having an internship boosts your resumes immensely. Having working experience in the industry that you are actually intending to work in once you graduate is a big plus for other employees. It shows not only that you are serious about the industry that you are intending to get into, but also that other companies in that industry are willing to hire you as an intern, which is a good sign that you should therefore be hired in a similar full-time role as well.

In fact, this is why so many students are beginning to start interning as soon as possible, even if that means just after their freshman year of college, despite not having much significant experience. If you can land an internship after your freshman year, it makes it significantly easier to land your next one after your sophomore year, and so on and so forth (and don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to get yourself a quality internship after just one year of college). By the time you are actually ready to graduate and work full time, you will have a dearth of quality internships under your belt, making you very attractive to potential employers. I would even go so far as to say that if you land a quality internship after your freshman year of college, you are firmly in the driver’s seat for leaving college with a quality full-time offer.

It all starts with that first internship. The sooner you get your first legit internship, the better off you will be. So while it may be nice to relax and unwind after your first year of college (or any year for that matter), in order to give you time to see your family and friends back home, you should definitely consider securing an internship instead, especially if you are confident in the degree in which you intend to major in. Doing so is almost always guaranteed to be a better use of your time in the long run.