You've seen in your local newspaper that summer classes are starting up soon. There are even a few that fit into your intended major. So now you're beginning to wonder if you should sign up and get a few extra credits done before you go back to school. Still, you're not quite sure if it's the right decision for you. It's true that there are ups and downs to summer classes, and it's important to consider both before you make your choice.
Getting General Education Courses Out of the Way
General Education Courses, or Gen Eds, are the basic courses that give students a wide breadth of background knowledge. Also, they're usually pre-requisites for classes directly related to your major. Whether you see them as an interesting window into different disciplines or an uninteresting detour from your major, summer classes give you the chance to take them in less time. This means you can dive into classes directly related to your major sooner, or even graduate early!
Sticking to the Routine
During the school year, it's pretty easy to fall into a sort of rhythm. You'll hit your stride and be able to keep momentum and work ethic up. But after a lengthy summer break, you might notice that you've lost your rhythm when school time comes back around. If you don't stop working, that work ethic doesn't go away. So by taking summer classes you'll already be fully in the swing of things by the time you get back to school.
Just about every school has some sort of credit minimum for graduation. Summer classes can help you reach that minimum. If you can find classes that help you in your major, you can work towards your degree in both credit amount as well as major requirements. Summer classes can be a great time to take additional classes if you are a full-time student, but want to retain your regular semester, full-time enrollment at 12 credits rather than at 15; or if your major has extra course requirements which makes it necessary to take more than the standard 15 credits in one semester. For part-time students, summer classes are in essence just another semester of classes, as they usually take one or two classes in each semester, throughout the year, in order to get done as soon as possible.
If you pick a class that you really don't want to take but have to, there is at least one thing to look forward to. Summer classes run at a very accelerated pace. In a much shorter time than during the school year, you'll be done. You won't have to put up with a subject or teacher you hate for very long, and once you've finished you'll probably still have a chunk of summer left. Some students actually excel at the shorter programs, so if you're one of those students then summer classes are probably right for you. A word of caution: Just because the timeframe is shorter does not mean that the instruction time has been reduced nor that the material and the expectations have been lowered. Therefore, students have to complete the same objectives and the same number of chapters in the book as they would during the full 15 week semester, only in the summer they may have 5, or 7 or 10 weeks to do so. Thus, summer classes tend to be mostly introductory survey classes and should be taken only upon the advice of your academic or faculty advisor.
Summer, to many, is about relieving school anxiety and cutting loose for a while. Instead of freaking out over homework and tests, you can see friends from your hometown, party, and just let all that stress go. Doing another class would just maintain that high stress level and no one in college wants to hit that burnout point if they can help it. After all, once you hit the working world, you don't get a summer break anymore. Might as well live it up while you can, right?
Harder to Get a Summer Job
Sometimes people use summer to get job experience and make a little extra cash. It can really set you ahead for future resumes and make school life more financially comfortable next semester. If you're taking summer classes, it makes your schedule a little more hectic. Some places you would rather work at might not even hire you because of your inability to work certain hours.
At college, you might find a huge selection of classes. If you don't want to study European history, you can study ancient Asian civilizations instead! With summer classes you probably won't get that kind of selection. You'll have to take whatever is available with whatever teachers are available. Even general education classes are increasingly more specific according to each major, which means that choices have been limited. If for example a degree plan calls for a Science course as part of the Education degree, it will be advisable for the student to be certain to ensure that they take the recommended Science Gen. Ed. course, and not the only Science course that happened to be offered during the summer. That could result in a costly and time consuming detour when the course is not applicable to the major.
This was already listed as a pro, but it can also be a con. With no time for study groups, reviewing tests and asking teachers for help, you'll be forced to adapt or risk failing. The material also comes at you so fast that if you're not clear on an initial concept, you probably won't understand the later related concepts. If you're the kind of student who can't easily deal with a fast paced class that has no time for review, then summer classes probably aren't the best choice for you. Summer classes on average have a higher than 50% failure rate. Unless it is necessary for graduation or degree completion purposes to take a specific summer class, it is generally advisable to refrain from taking summer classes.
Online Study vs. Onsite:
If you think summer courses might be fun for you, consider that most institutions nowadays offer the majority of their summer course work online or as hybrid courses. If you have never taken an online course or are returning to taking classes, there is another option. Study.com offers a wide variety of college credit courses that you can take online. Taking courses online lets you choose when you want to study, meaning you can still spend time with your friends or accept that awesome internship. Check out our full list of college credit courses to see if online studying is for you.