Are Summer School Classes
Really Worth It?

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What Are the Pro's and Con's of Taking Summer Classes?

Summer school in college is a great idea. Unlike your elementary, middle school, and high school years, it’s not a sign that you failed a class that you have to now make up. Instead, you’re working to get ahead on your credits.

However, you do need to know a few things about summer school before you sign up for a class or two. First, your daily and weekly class load will be much more intense. You’re going to cram an entire semester of work into about a ten-week time-frame. It’s best to use this to get basic classes out of the way, or a class you failed, so you can work on your major classes.

If online classes during the summer session are the only way you’ll be able to complete a summer session or two, some colleges and universities do offer these. Check with your university or college and see whether the classes you need or want to take will be offered. If a class is routinely offered only during summer sessions and it’s required for your graduation, then, once you find the class, enroll early so that you reserve a spot.

Among some of the suggestions for graduating on time, such as taking 30 credits per academic year, you’ll find a suggestion to attend summer school. This is one great way for you to continue earning college credits needed for your degree program and shorten the amount of time it takes for you to graduate. Most colleges and universities offer summer sessions and intersession programs. Once you have enrolled in your chosen summer classes, stay on top of them, and attend daily. Do your homework daily and hand it in on time just like any other class. Summer sessions move quickly, so you don’t have time to get behind.

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Do Summer Classes Benefit University Students?

Summer school classes can be a huge benefit to university students. That’s why they are more than willing to give up precious summer break time to take classes, study, and take exams. If you want to graduate on time, or even a little early, then you may choose to use the summer session to retake a class you failed, overlooked, or a class required for graduation that is only offered occasionally. For first-year students or sophomores, summer school classes are great for taking prerequisites or even getting general education classes out of the way.

Not as many students enroll during summer sessions. Because of this, students can benefit from smaller classes sizes and additional attention from professors or graduate assistants. By taking a few classes during each summer session, students can free up some time during the fall or spring semesters so that they can take a required internship. Summer session classes may involve study abroad programs that may benefit students by giving them exposure to other languages, cultures, and practices.

There are also less academic reasons to take courses during the summer session. It may give students more opportunity to partake of recreational or social events during the school year such as concerts, swimming, art festivals, hiking, camping, or sports.

Incoming freshmen can take part in a summer academic and cultural engagement program. Its purpose is to help students transition from a high school environment into a university environment. Students also become better acquainted with the university community in which their campus is located. These students learn to live on their own in special housing, adjusting to living with people who aren’t their families. They also take part in retreats and orientations intended to help them adjust to their new environment. Along with retreats and seminars, students take a few credits toward their intended majors. They may spend part of their time studying abroad, as well as on campus.

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Students who take summer classes may be able to reduce their fall and spring course loads. Rather than taking 15 credits or more each semester, they may be able to take 12. One university has realigned its summer course offerings to make sure that its highest-demand classes are offered in the summer months. Students benefit because summer session classes meet degree pathway initiatives, which means they may graduate sooner. Students can also benefit from these added classes if the in-demand courses are often full during regular semesters.

If a student isn’t enrolled at the university offering summer courses they are interested in, they may still be able to take those classes and transfer them to their degrees at their university. If they are taking online classes, they may also expect a discounted tuition, which makes taking more than one or two classes a possibility.

Finally, students may be able to take advantage of a broad menu of classes during summer sessions. Classes such as architecture, biology, math, psychology, journalism, English, education, writing, political science, criminal justice, public relations, Spanish, sociology, economics, accounting, marketing, business, chemistry, engineering, history, theatre production, and many others may be offered.

While summer session classes mean that students can’t relax for the entire summer, they may make use of this opportunity to either stay on-schedule or get ahead. Graduate students, in particular, may benefit from summer courses, as they will be able to complete mandatory practicums or clinical internships during the regular semester.

Florida law actually requires university students to take summer courses. Students can complete general education classes or begin working on core courses.

Will Taking Summer Classes in College Shorten My Degree Program?

The longer you’re in school to earn your degree, the more you tend to pay for your classes. Taking longer to earn your degree also decreases your lifelong earnings. Thus, summer school might be a good solution for you if you’re looking to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Even if you go to school year-round, you’ll still have two or three weeks between semesters or sessions to take some downtime and relax.

By taking the summer session equivalent of a full course load, you’ll be able to reach the culmination of your degree more quickly. While sitting in a classroom while the sun is shining and other students are playing isn’t ideal, you’ll benefit in the end.

One Texas community college system is offering summer classes free of charge. They believe that, with free classes, students will realize they won’t be adding to student loan burdens or using up federal financial aid too fast. Students who earn 24 total credits during their fall and spring semesters will be eligible to receive up to six free credit hours the following summer. Because community college students are required to earn 60 credits to graduate, they would be able to earn all of these credits and graduate within two years. The incentives of free college credits and earlier graduation may mean more students who are willing to take one or two summer sessions and finish their degree programs earlier.

The benefit to students who attend full-time is “momentum.” Building up credits more quickly may motivate them to attend full-time and take those summer classes. The community colleges also benefit by retaining students they would otherwise lose after the culmination of their spring semesters (called “summer melt”).

How much money could students save with free summer classes? About $186. While this isn’t true for every university, summer tuition is often less expensive than it would be during the fall and spring semesters.

Do’s and Don’ts

A few simple do’s and don’ts of summer classes:

  • Online summer courses offer convenience and flexibility. Students can keep their working hours and study in their off time.
  • Take your prerequisite and general education classes during summer sessions. You’ll be able to start on your major courses sooner.
  • Register for a different college so you can take courses that are no longer available at your university.
  • Don’t discount your ability to take summer courses. By taking one per session, you’ll be able to finish faster while still having time to relax.
  • If you take courses from another institution, verify that your credits will transfer to your university.
  • Just because summer sessions may be less expensive, don’t consider them to be of lower quality.
  • Don’t forget about your graduation goal. You’ll be able to graduate on time or even earlier.

Can I Make Up Classes I Failed During the Fall or Spring Semesters?

Those mandatory general education classes may not be in your areas of academic strength. For instance, algebra or another math class may be the bane of your existence. And, no matter how hard you try; you may still fail one of these required classes. Or, you may have failed a required prerequisite class that would allow you to begin taking classes in the major you chose.

Don’t think that you’re just stuck and unable to make any progress toward graduation. Even though it will still cost you some extra money, you can repeat those classes, but you don’t want to take them during fall or spring semesters, when you’re taking a full class load of 12 or 15 credits. That could push back your graduation date by an entire semester.

Instead, sign up for the classes, if they are offered, during one or two summer sessions. You’ll be required to read and study more material during each class session—summer session classes pass by more quickly. If you think it’s necessary, find someone to tutor you, so you can understand the material more easily.

One California university has established a program that allows students to re-take a failed class during the summer months more easily. Some conditions do exist. Students must have at least 80 credits, so they are closer to graduation. If you attend a college with similar rules, you’ll likely only be able to take major courses you’ve failed or missed in this way.

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The second requirement for students to qualify is that they still have some time before they graduate; plus, their parents should not be able to contribute more than $4,000 toward their tuition fees. They must be in good academic standing and write a one-page paper that describes their financial need. And they must have their coursework approved by their adviser.

A second university offers summer session classes for students to make up a failed class, underlay (took less than a full course load in a previous semester), or because of withdrawal from the university. Students may also take a course for enrichment purposes. Students wishing to take a summer class for the above reasons should get prior approval from the associate dean. They may also need departmental approval if they need their course to fulfill a core, major, minor, or language class.

You need to make sure, if you plan on taking summer courses in order to shorten your time in school, that you know the requirements for summer courses. Each school makes their own decisions about how and when they let students take summer courses and, while some are very open to allowing any and all students access to these courses; some, as you’ve seen above, are more stringent with their rules governing access to summer sessions.

Are Summer Sessions Less Expensive than Fall or Spring Semesters?

This also depends on the individual school and the structure of its summer session offerings. One university charges $536 per credit for all undergraduate courses and $853 for all graduate courses. Additional fees, such as the enrollment fee, technology fee, online course fee, student activity fee, and late fees add to the total cost of the class for the student.

One school’s undergraduate tuition for New York state residents is $286/credit, while out-of-state tuition is $694/credit. In-state graduate tuition for the school is $462/credit, while out-of-state tuition is $944/credit. Fees include health service, technology, late registration, late payment, late add/drop, withdrawal, and transportation fees.

At this university, summer session tuition closely resembles tuition for a fall or spring semester with undergraduate programs costing $1,060/credit; Metropolitan School of Professional Studies is $915/credit; School of Arts & Sciences costs $500/credit hour; and professional and off-campus programs are $1,110/credit hour.

As you can see from this one example, many things can affect the cost of your summer session. Make sure that you check with your school as to the front-end cost and all other fees that may be associated with a summer session.

How Often Do Summer Session Classes Meet?

At most universities, students experience an intensive summer class schedule. Classes are more focused, meeting four or five days per week, for three to four hours at a time. These classes can last from two to 12 weeks; most classes are in session for six to eight weeks. The quality of summer classes is just the same as fall and spring classes.

Summer sessions are the equivalent of around 10 weeks of undergraduate-level coursework. These courses are condensed into a shorter period, meaning that one or two days of class corresponds to a full week of instruction during fall and spring semesters. Homework assignments will be given daily (readings, problem sets, or long-term assignments such as research projects or papers). Classes are often scheduled for a full day of course-related activity, Monday through Friday. Students receive daily lunch breaks.

For Students at California State-Fullerton, summer courses meet three times per week, after 4 p.m. Because of the intensity of the courses, one class per session is taught for five weeks. Students then progress to the second class in the second session. Graduate students can enroll in a maximum of 12 credits. If they want to enroll for more credits, they will have to get an excess unit petition form signed, then bring it back to the Admissions and Records office.

For graduate students majoring in the Master of Public Health, two core competency courses are only offered during the summer. Most students opt to take these courses during the summer of their first academic year. If they choose not to do this, they will have to wait until the summer session of the next academic year to take these courses. Until they have completed these classes, they will not complete their MPH degree program.

At Lake Forest College, three summer sessions are offered: May, June, and July. Classes meet for four days each week during the four-week session. All classes take place on campus. Current Lake Forest College students, future students, visitors from other colleges, high school students, or regular community members are eligible to take summer session classes at Lake Forest College.

Classes are small, giving a major, beneficial impact to each student. Everyone can take advantage of field trips, debates, demonstrations, and small-group instruction which are all offered. If a current Lake Forest College student is behind on class credits, they are eligible to take a course for $500. For students who want to complete required internships, summer internships are available.

Check with your chosen college to see what their summer sessions look like. They may even be available in classes that meet on weekends or evenings to allow you to attend around a job or internship schedule. Check around; you never know what you might find.