Information for the parents of college students
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Should My College Student Consider Summer Classes?

Once the last of the final exams are finished in the spring, most students look forward to a long summer break before classes resume in the fall.  Students often spend their summer working hard at a summer job, but they enjoy having a summer free from classes, textbooks, papers, and tests.  Some students, however, may consider signing up for summer classes – either at their own college or at an institution closer to home.  There are some things for your student to consider before she makes the decision to continue classes during the summer.

Why would a student want to take summer classes?

Students opt for summer classes for a variety of reasons.

  • Some students need to take a course or two to make up for a course that they failed or in which they received a poor grade or from which they withdrew during the traditional semester. Some of these students may be using the summer class to improve their GPA.
  • Some students take a summer class or two to gain an advantage and perhaps finish their degree early – graduating in three years or in December rather than May.
  • Some students may want to complete a pre-requisite so that they can take another course in the fall, or may want to take a course that wasn’t available another semester.
  • Some students use summer as an opportunity to sample a subject that they want to explore – at a time when they have more focus.

Are there advantages to taking classes in the summer?

For some students, there are advantages to summer term classes.

  • Summer classes are short – usually six to eight weeks long.  Although they usually contain the same amount of material, they work intensively.  For some students, this shorter time period allows them to maintain a focus they might find difficult for a traditional 13-15 week semester.
  • Because summer classes are more intensive, students generally take only one or two classes at a time.  This also allows students to be more focused, rather than trying to balance 3-6 classes at a time.
  • Taking summer classes helps some students “stay in the mode” of studying.  It helps them maintain a routine of learning and studying throughout the summer.  It may also help them retain information from spring semester that they will need in the fall semester.
  • Summer classes are often smaller than during the traditional semester.  Students often receive more individualized attention and have more interaction with other students.
  • Summer classes are often less formal and more low-key.  Students often prefer the more relaxed atmosphere and the potential for increased interaction with the professor.

Are there any disadvantages to taking classes in the summer?

Although there are many reasons that students may opt for summer college classes, there are some important considerations which students should evaluate before signing up.

  • College financial aid generally does not cover summer classes.  Students should be prepared for extra tuition costs.
  • Taking classes in the summer does not allow the student a break from the school routine.  While this may be an advantage for some students, others may find that they need the hiatus in order to return to school in the fall refreshed and ready for another full semester.
  • Because summer classes are short (generally about six weeks), there is very little room for flexibility on attendance.  Missing even one class can put a student significantly behind, and could affect the student’s grade.  Students need to be careful regarding vacations or other summer obligations.
  • Students also need to stay focused and organized and keep up with their classwork diligently.  There is no time to fall behind.  Summer classes usually cover the same material that would be covered in a traditional semester, but in about half of the time.  Students need to be prepared to spend a significant amount of time studying.
  • Students need to balance summer school with summer job. They should consider how taking a summer class might impact their earning capabilities.

Is there anything my student should consider if she is taking a summer class?

If your college student has decided that the advantages of taking a summer class outweigh the disadvantages, there are a couple of things she should do as she considers signing up.

  • If your student is taking a summer class in place of a required class, she may want to sign up for the class for fall semester anyway.  Once the summer class is completed, she can drop the class from her fall schedule.  If the class is not on her fall schedule, and anything happens to prevent her from completing the class in the summer, she may find that there is no longer any room in the class in the fall.
  • If your student is taking a class at an institution other than his college, he should get approval from his current college.  He wants to have the assurance that the college will accept the credits in transfer.  This is especially important if the course is a requirement.
  • Your student should check the transfer credit policy at his institution.  Most schools will accept the credits from another school, but not the grade.  This means that if your student is taking a summer class in an attempt to raise his GPA, the class may need to be taken at his home school rather than at another institution.

Your student may find that a summer school class is just the thing for him – to make up some credits, to get ahead, or just to take a fun class.  As long as he considers the situation carefully and does a bit of pre-planning, he can enjoy a summer of work, relaxation – and school.

Related Posts:

It’s Final Exam Time: What’s A College Parent To Do?

What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed from College

Who Is Advising My College Student About Academic Issues?

The Path to Graduation: The Fast Track

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