When I was in high school, my dad always told me, “Find a way to invest your summer instead of just spending it.” I probably rolled my eyes, but this statement has become a foundation for decisions about how I, as a college student, spend my summer. The result? I have had transformational experiences such as working at a family camp, helping out foster parents in my church, and caring for a sick family member. This time could have easily been wasted.
How Should College Students Spend their Summer?
As students, resources of our own are scarce because we still rely on parents, loans, or work that barely makes ends meet. Although we do have busy schedules, one resource we do have the ability to steward is our time, and as Christians, we are called to budget it in a way that looks different from the world. Here are three suggestions for how college students should spend their summer.
1. Count your change
I do not know your exact situation, but I do know how easy it is to let time slip by without growth, meaning, or impact, especially when the world’s approach to free time is pleasure, indulgence, and passivity. Here is our challenge from Ephesians 5:16: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Start where you are. When you add it up, what blocks of time do you have to invest? Are you in high school, with afternoons free after volleyball or football workouts? Are you home after your first year of college? Or are you living with friends working a summer job, and excited to relax without the normal load of a semester? Count your change. You have this time. Now is the best opportunity to think about how you will use it.
2. Spend, Save, Share
You may have learned the three jars approach to using money, and the same tool is helpful when thinking about the resource of time.
By all means, spend time with friends and family having loads of fun this summer. Play and leisure are vital!
Additionally, save time to meet with God and be still before him. We’ve all been shocked by our screen time reports, so imagine what could happen if we traded 30 minutes of TikTok for 30 minutes of prayer or reading that helps us know God and ourselves more intimately? No one likes the idea of wasting money, but saving money takes a lot of discipline. Similarly, wasting time is a hard habit to break, but the rewards are great. More time alone with God means you are more connected to the source of true Life instead of more connected to the world through a screen.
Finally, share time with those who are in need. Look around your family, neighborhood, or community for needs that your resources could meet. This could be as close as serving your family through yardwork or cooking, as fun as helping out with a baseball team for kids who look up to you, or as unexpected as going on a short-term mission trip.
Many children are behind on school and their lives would truly change if you invested in them as a tutor. Ask God for opportunities and then see how he provides! Even when you feel like you don’t have much to give, share your time cheerfully in the spirit of 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
3. The invisible investment of prayer
Sometimes, it is easier to share and serve when people are applauding. This is true for me, and I hope I am not alone! This summer, I know fellow college students spending their summer engaging in global missions. They have asked me to pray for them, and I am humbled by how hard it is to invest when the effort is not seen or applauded. I would rather have the spotlight, but I am learning that I can serve my friends best behind closed doors.
Some of you might be in a similar circumstance with summer classes or a job that feels insignificant. I’m challenging you—and me!—to invest time into prayer, because though we usually cannot see its effects, God makes its importance clear: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
Investing money in the right places leads to profitable returns. Investing time in the right places bears the kind of fruit that matters for eternity. Time, just like money, is a treasure especially when it is our most abundant resource as young adults. If this is the case, then Jesus has a message for us from the Sermon on the Mount. He lovingly urges us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).