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Summer Session: The Pros & Cons

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By the time May rolls around, you’ll be totally ready to say goodbye to schoolwork and hello to summer vacation. But for many collegiettes, summer marks the beginning of a new semester, as more and more students opt in to doing summer session at their respective schools. Who would ever want to go to school in the summer? It turns out that there are many reasons for the extra learning—find out what they are below!

What is summer session?

Although summer session differs greatly from school to school, at its very core, it’s a chance for students to gain extra academic credits at college during the summer. But instead of taking a full course load (typically four to six classes at most colleges), students usually take one to three classes over the course of four to eight weeks (again, it depends on the school and the type of summer session). Because the timeline for class is shorter than it would be during a normal semester, classes meet more frequently throughout the week, and meeting times are longer.

The courses offered during summer session also differ greatly from school to school. Some colleges use summer sessions as a means for students to catch up on much-needed credits for graduation or major requirements, while others see it as a way for students to explore other interests.

Why do collegiettes do it?

There are some collegiettes who truly love learning and want to do summer session for that reason, but for many collegiettes, summer session ensures that they can graduate in the allotted four-year period for an undergraduate degree, especially if the university is large and it’s hard to get into classes needed for graduation or major requirements.  

For other collegiettes, taking a summer session of college can help them graduate sooner by taking more credits than they would be able to during a normal semester. Katie Glass, a junior at Wesleyan University, decided to follow the college’s three-year graduation track, which stated that in addition to taking more classes during every fall and spring semester, Katie would also need to spend at least one summer at Wesleyan gaining two extra credits to graduate a year early.

Obviously, the reasons for wanting to attend summer session at college differ greatly from person to person, but there are definitely some pros and cons to consider to see if it’s right for you!

Can you afford it?

Before you grab your sunscreen and figure out where the best spots to tan on campus while studying are, one thing to consider is summer session tuition.

While most colleges allow students to use their financial aid package toward summer session, it’s important to book an appointment or call up your financial aid office as soon as possible to see if your financial aid applies to summer classes.

Additionally, if you have one or multiple scholarships, it’s important to check the fine print to see if you’re allowed to use that money toward summer classes—some scholarships state that they are only to be used for fall and spring semesters.

Pros

The academic atmosphere is more relaxed

While Katie was extremely apprehensive of spending five weeks of her summer at school, she’s really glad that she decided to go. “I was extremely stressed from taking five classes every semester (which is a lot at Wesleyan, since four is the norm), so it was great to relax and only attend two classes a day,” she says.

Katie also loved how much smaller her classes were during the summer as opposed to during the normal academic year. “One of my classes ended up having only 11 people,” she says. “Our class really bonded, and we ended up having an end-of-the-session barbecue at my professor’s house. It was the highlight of my summer!”

Rebecca Quin, a sophomore at the University of Florida, also saw another perk of summer session academics. “Classes are also much easier [since you’re taking fewer of them], which is helpful when you need to get some credits out of the way,” she says. Without the normal course load and fewer students in class, Rebecca found it easier to get the help she needed and still have time for a social life.

You get to see more of campus and the surrounding area

If you’re an incoming freshman or an older student who just never felt comfortable on your campus or in the surrounding area, summer is a great time to explore. Rebecca, who took summer session classes before her fall semester freshman year, found it way less overwhelming to navigate the campus without so many students around. “It's helpful getting a head start on college, especially before the thousands of other people moved in,” she says.

Katie also had the opportunity to see the sights around central Connecticut. “I’d never explored Middletown (the small city where Wesleyan is located) that much during the school year, but the summer was something else,” she says. “My friends and I hit up a ton of restaurants and eateries that we’d always wanted to check out but never had the chance to (especially in the freezing winter!), so that was a huge plus.”

Cons

You may be burnt out

The normal academic year is already stressful enough, so by the time summer rolls around, you might be in serious need of a long break. Since most schools only give students a week or two off between spring semester ending and summer session starting, it can be an extremely jarring and exhausting experience for collegiettes who want some real downtime away from academics.

Since she headed straight out of high school and into her summer session, Rebecca felt like she had run out of steam. “[I went] straight from graduating high school and working my butt off to jumping back into more school work,” she says. “It feels like you never really get a break. By the end of my freshman year in college, I was so burnt out.”

Katie also had trouble staying focused at times during the summer. “One of my professors assigned an eight-page paper during the first week of our class during summer session,” she says. “I’ve never been so unmotivated in my entire life; even typing my name on the paper felt like a drag!”

It can be isolating

If most of your friends won’t be at summer school, it can feel extremely isolating to be alone on campus. Even though she lived with people she knew on campus, Katie felt at times like she was in a whole other world from the rest of her friends. “Many other people I know had internships or jobs in cities like New York and Boston, so it was sad to see pictures on Facebook of them going out and having a great time while I sat around Middletown, which isn’t really a happening place,” she says. “There are definitely moments when you feel really bored and extremely lonely, and that wasn’t something I was prepared for.”

Additionally, Rebecca has advice for collegiettes trying to socialize. “Do not be afraid to branch out,” she says. “This is a time to meet all new people and make friends.” Befriend the other students in your classes, and don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with people you don’t know!

Summer session applications generally come out during the spring semester, so if summer session is something that interests you and you haven’t taken time to look at your options, start researching the processes needed to apply (some schools let you automatically sign up, while others make you fill out an application first). Check your school’s summer session website for dates and deadlines, chat with an academic adviser or class dean to see if there’s still an opportunity for you to apply and sign up for classes. You could be looking at an awesome time on campus!


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