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.
In 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.
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.