For many, summer is a time for relaxing, laying poolside, vacations and picnics. For college students, summer is the time to gain experience through internships. Whether your school requires it or not – internships are a great way to gain experience, make some money and network with other professionals.

On the flip side, securing a great summer internship can be competitive or may not mesh well with your summer plans. In this case, don’t stress! There are plenty of other ways to gain great experience during your break without an internship:

Real Work Experience: Returning again to your part-time summer gig? Before blowing it off as an easy way to spend your summer, get the most out of your time! Ask your manager for additional responsibilities, for example: ask to observe upper management or see if you can assist with budgeting. Use this time to sharpen your work force skills and gain new experiences.

Volunteer Your Time: Civic service is rewarding, fun and looks great on a resume. Take it an extra step by volunteering for an organization that is in line with your career goals. For example, are you an advertising major? Create marketing materials for a local nonprofit. Education majors can gain experience volunteering at a summer camp. Bonus points for networking or adding to your portfolio.

Summer School: The thought of spending sunny warm days in a classroom is not ideal, but summer coursework is often less expensive and sometimes transferrable to your campus from your hometown institution. This is a great way to complete those elective courses  or focus on one subject that is difficult for you. Plus, studying poolside really isn’t that painful.

School’s Out for the Summer, But the Staff Isn’t: Take advantage of a quiet campus by scheduling  appointments with career services, academic advising and other offices on campus that you were not able to utilize during the year.

“Working” Vacation: When scheduling your summer vacation, also add some time to visit sites, companies or people that could boost your career. Conduct an informational interview or take a tour of a company that you could see yourself working for. This will help expand your network and get your first foot in the door when you apply for an internship or entry level position the following year.

Professional experience comes in many forms. Sure, internships are one of the best ways to gain real world experience, but take advantage of all your options. Summer is a great time to relax and refresh; but while you are in college, don’t pass up any opportunity to network, explore career avenues and prepare yourself for the competitive job market.