Smart Move—Take a Summer Class!

I know what you’re thinking. The semester has just ended and the last thing you want to hear about is taking a summer class. But, hear me out on this one. I want to make the case that taking one or more summer classes may be a great move if this option is available to you.

teacher-702998_1280In making my arguments I realize that some of you will be unable to take summer classes due to financial considerations. Also, your summer schedule may be really busy and you just do not feel you are able to commit to taking a class. Keep in mind however that you might be able squeeze in a summer class with a busy schedule if you take an online summer class. Finally, a summer class may not be ideal for you if you go away to school and you would have to take a class at a different school near your home. For example, say you go to the University of Kentucky, but live in Chicago. You could take a summer class at the University of Chicago. Taking this class at Chicago would be great, and you can usually earn credit hours toward your degree as long as Kentucky has a similar existing course. However, the actual grade you earn at Chicago will not be included into your Kentucky grade point average. A related situation occurs if you go to a smaller school that does not offer summer classes. You can take a class at a school that does offer summer classes—you earn the credit hours, but the grade does not get worked into your grade point average at your smaller school.

I also want to state that, in general, my thoughts about summer class hold true for face-to-face and online class. Although I typically favor the former, if you can motivate yourself to do the work in an online course that’s great. In fact, taking an online course may be a real advantage if you have other things going on this summer (e.g., work) and need greater flexibility.

 Now to what I see as four big advantages to taking summer classes:

1) Summer classes are usually much smaller than classes during a regular semester. This means you will typically have more contact with the Instructor and your classmates. For example, when I teach Introduction to Psychology I have 500 students in my class. That same class in the summer may have between 25 and 40 students.

2) The logistics of summer classes allows you to focus more attention on your classwork. In general, summer classes usually last only 4 to 8 weeks. What this means is that you can only take a small number of courses. For example, at the university where I teach students can only take one course during a 4-week session and two courses during an eight-week session. Of course, this is way less than the number of courses taken during a typical semester. It is true that you get the same amount of information in a shorter time frame, but you are able to focus so much more on this information. I will add that because the courses are short, they seem to fly by.

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3) Summer courses allow you to play catch-up with your courses and credit hours. Although everyone would like to move through college taking the exact number of credit hours each semester in order to graduate in 4 years, this doesn’t happen that often. Things take place during college that may set you back. For example, you may have stumbled with a course and now have to repeat it. Whether you repeat it in the summer or during a regular semester, repeating the course means you will get a new grade but you do not get the additional credit hours. Just to clear about this, when you take the same course two times, you only earn credit hours one time. That means you essentially “owe” credit hours, and need to earn back these credit hours somehow. Taking a summer course allows you to earn back these hours, and get right back on track as far as completing your credit hours.

4) It is my experience (probably 25 years of teaching summer class) and that of colleagues and students I have spoken to that summer class have a more laid-back atmosphere compared to a typical semester. It is the summer, and everybody seems just a bit calmer about things. I can’t say this is always true and clearly my “study” is unscientific, but this is my impression of summer classes.

These big advantages will work in your favor as you navigate your way through your college career. I hope you will consider taking a summer class–there’s a good chance it will benefit you!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

 

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College Summer Break: Use It Wisely!

With the school year coming to a close I thought it would be useful to discuss how best to think about summer break. In talking about this, it is important to keep in mind that my advice is for both those who will still be in college next academic year and incoming students.

I feel that the end of the academic year is a time to recharge. All those weeks of hard work have probably left you tired and in need of some much needed downtime. There is nothing wrong with just hanging out and getting yourself back to normal, at least during a part of the summer. For some of you, those initial days home will bring some much-needed sleep and a lot of good times with family and friends. Think of this aspect of summer break as a reward for a job well done. You made it through the school year and you are to be rewarded for all your efforts. Hopefully, your grades will reflect how hard you worked.

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I hope your time relaxing will include a few good books. As always, there is nothing like reading to calm you down and get your mind thinking about the world in new and exciting ways. In addition, all that reading will have residual benefits of improving your vocabulary, writing and thinking. In addition, what you read may even be related to what you are studying in school. The way I think about it, a good book goes a long way to a more relaxed person.

I understand that the summer is a time to refresh, but summer break is also a time to get things accomplished and to think ahead. One thing you might want to do is get a job during the summer months. It is likely that you can use the cash not only to do things during the summer or buy something you need, but it can also help you out with things you will need when school starts (e.g., textbooks). Also, if you can get a job related to your ultimate career plans that would be great–there is nothing like gaining experience in the workplace.

As far as thinking ahead, you might wonder what there is to prepare for, but it doesn’t take long to think of a list of things you probably need to do during the summer to ready for the next school year. I am not saying you should do all of these things right away, but at some point during the summer there are various tasks that you should try your best to get done. Here are a few:

1) visit your doctor and dentist

2) volunteer with some group, organization, or research lab—it will be great if this is related to your ultimate career goals

3) make contact with faculty who you might want to work with doing research when school begins

4) get your head together about career planning by checking out websites that offer information on various careers (e.g., careersinpsych.com if you are a Psychology major)—if you are a student getting ready to apply to graduate or professional school, start pulling application material together

5) continue to work on your resume

6) get an internship—these are great when they pay, but even if unpaid an internship gives you important practical experience

7) although it may cause you some “mental pain”, take some time to go over certain subject material that you will need to deal with when school starts

8) carefully read anything sent to you from your school, and respond immediately to any requests for information

hot-air-1373167_1280Students who are ready to start college for the first time have other things they need to consider doing during the summer. These include:

1) learn about the college town where you will be living if it will be new to you

2) start buying the things you will need for school—you don’t have to buy everything, because some things you will only learn that you need once you are on campus

3) create a LinkedIn account to help your professional career and to keep in connect with professors and other students

4) attend your college orientation, where you will register for classes and here more about life at your new school

5) if you are going to live away from home: (a) generate a packing list; (b) contact your roommate; and (c) investigate job opportunities if you need to work

6) consider attending a pre-orientation event where you can meet other incoming freshmen and faculty

7) check with the Financial Aid Office to confirm any aid you expect to receive

8) find out about the computer situation at your new school (e.g., what computer resources are available)

9) plan a budget

10) make your travel plans for arriving on campus, including how you will get all your things to campus

In closing, just remember that the summer should be a time for you to enjoy. The school year will be here before you know it. Take full advantage of this time off and be ready to go once school begins!