Preparing for college doesn’t just include buying cute dorm decorations, figuring out your financial aid situation and saying goodbye to loved ones. You also need to prepare academically! For many collegiettes, it can be nerve-wracking walking into that first college class in the fall, unsure of what to expect. That’s why some collegiettes opt to take a summer class at their future colleges before freshman year.
Have you been considering taking a summer class? Ever wondered what the pros and cons are? Her Campus is here to help!
Are you eligible to take a summer class?
Most colleges offer some sort of summer session to students, allowing them to take an extra class or two while living on campus for a month or two. Some schools make it mandatory for students to enroll in at least one summer session during their time at that college, and other schools make it an optional addition for students who want to pick up extra credits.
As soon as you know where you’re attending college, be sure check out your school’s “Summer Session” page (typically found under “Academics” or “Academic Resources” on the school website, but a Google Search will do the trick!) to find out which classes are offered and if the session is mandatory.
Typically, summer sessions are four to eight weeks long, depending on the number of courses you’re taking and the rigor of the program. Different schools have different requirements for how many classes you should take during your time on campus in the summer, but typically it’s one or two. Additionally, different schools have different purposes for their summer sessions and therefore different policies about which courses you should take, so it would be wise to talk to an administrator or current students about why you’re taking summer session classes in the first place.
Also, if there’s a summer session open to incoming freshmen, your future school will probably send you some more information via email or snail mail, so be on the lookout!
Pros of taking a summer class
They help you explore your interests
Trying to pick a major is one of the most anxiety-filled decisions for collegiettes. The pressure is multiplied if your college makes you choose your major upon entering freshman year. After all, you don’t want to make the wrong choice and spend the rest of your college career trying to make up the credits you missed!
Taking a summer class can be a great way to explore your interests before you arrive at school. Not sure if you want to spend four years pursuing pre-med requirements? Try taking one or two of them over the summer.
Megan Lucas, a junior at Wesleyan University, found herself in this predicament before starting college. “I was really interested in going the pre-med route, but didn’t want to waste my first semester taking all of these science and math classes only to find that I didn’t even like the subject matter,” she says.
Taking summer classes in chemistry and calculus paid off for Megan; it turns out going pre-med wasn’t the right choice for her. “I think a lot of freshmen go into school and don’t truly know where their academic interests lie,” she says. “The great thing about the summer classes I took were that I was able to say without a doubt that I wasn’t interested in pre-med, so while other friends of mine were slowly (and painfully) making that same realization during their first semester of college, I got to move on and take classes I might actually enjoy.” Instead of focusing on her math and science classes when she got to Wesleyan, Megan took several humanities and social science classes and is now majoring in government.
You can understand the rigor of college-level academics
Megan said a second bonus of taking a summer class before her freshman year of college was getting used to the more demanding nature of college classes. “My summer calculus course covered everything I learned during my entire senior year of calculus in one class!” she says. “The pace was so much faster than it had been in high school, and it took some time getting used to utilizing office hours and TA sessions.” Megan thinks that summer classes gave her valuable time to adjust.
Megan also felt more confident when the fall semester came around for school. “Starting college is already overwhelming between learning the layout of a new campus, dealing with a roommate and making friends; adding academics into the mix can make the whole situation seem impossible to handle,” she says. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to understand how to properly study for tests and write papers before I headed into my first class at Wesleyan. It made me entire transition a whole lot easier.”
If you’re worried that the rigor of your college classes might be much harder than that of your high school classes, a summer course might be a great way to ease yourself into a college course load.
You get a feel for the campus
If your college offers a summer session to incoming freshmen, taking a class is a great opportunity to settle into campus before your entire class shows up in the fall.
Julie Lynn, a freshman at Florida State University, took a course this past summer before starting off her college career, and she found it helpful. “I had a great time getting to meet classmates, understand the academics and find my way around school!” she says. “I felt way more comfortable when the fall semester rolled around, and I wasn’t frantically running across campus trying to figure out where I was going.”
Another added bonus of being on campus early? You’ll be the cool freshman in the fall who already knows her way around!
Cons of taking a summer class
You might get burnt out
You worked your butt off all throughout high school getting good grades, juggling an impressive list of extracurriculars and still maintaining your social life. You’re ready for a break! While taking a summer class might seem like a great idea, it can also cause even more stress before your college career ever begins. You won’t have a full three months off between high school and college; instead, you may only have a couple of weeks at most.
Grace*, a sophomore at the University of Florida, took classes during her school’s summer session before she started college and she felt that it made her mentally exhausted before the actual school year began. “I had worked so hard in high school and thought I was getting ahead by taking more classes before school,” she says. “However, even though the workload seemed relatively easy, I felt super burnt out the entire time and really should have taken the summer before college to relax.”
Because she felt so exhausted, Grace ended up missing out on other parts of college life. “I spent most of my free time [during the summer] sleeping or watching movies in my [dorm] room instead of socializing,” she recalls. “If anything, taking those two summer classes actually made me feel even more overwhelmed at the beginning of the fall semester since I hadn’t really taken the time to [get to] know anyone.”
Are you unsure whether or not you’ll feel burnt out from taking a summer class? Grace recommends getting an outside opinion. “Before I took my summer class, both of my parents hinted that they thought I’d be extremely exhausted after not taking a break between college and high school, and I didn’t listen to them,” she says. “I wish I’d taken their concerns into greater consideration! It would’ve saved me a lot of time and energy.” Before signing up for summer classes, talk to people you trust and ask them to be honest about whether or not they think you’d be okay taking a class between high school and college.
Your credits might not transfer
If you’re considering taking a summer class at a college other than the one you’ll be attending in the fall, be sure to check whether or not your credits will transfer!
When Megan was deciding where to take her summer classes, there were several community colleges and public universities in her area that taught the chemistry and calculus classes she was looking for. However, Wesleyan would only accept credits from a particular college in her area. “I was so glad I checked out how the credits would transfer from those classes before I took them,” Megan says. “Even though I didn’t end up using those science and math credits for my majors or pre-med requirements, they went towards my general education credits for graduation, which meant I wouldn’t have to worry about taking a math or science class during my first two years at Wesleyan.”
If the reason you’re taking a summer class is to have the credits count towards graduation, Megan highly recommends checking with both your college and the school where you’re taking the course well in advance. “I would also encourage anyone looking at taking a course before freshman year to actually talk to someone on the phone about the class as opposed to just doing a web search,” she says. “I had a friend who checked Wesleyan’s website quickly before signing up for a class at a community college only to find out later on that the guidelines on the website were misleading and the credits for her summer class didn’t count.” Ouch!
Even if it may seem like a hassle to call up both institutions, it’ll save you the trouble and frustration later on of finding out that the class you worked so hard in won’t help you get any closer to your diploma.
It could cost you more money
Depending on your college and the type of program you take at that particular school, money may become an issue when you try to enroll in a summer class. Even if the summer class itself is covered by your financial aid package, your room and board might not be.
Julie urges collegiettes to find out if their financial aid and scholarships cover summer programs way before the summer starts. “Many scholarships and grants only cover school-year expenses for your fall and spring semesters, leaving out the summer,” she says. “Make sure you talk to your financial aid contact at your school as early as February or March, if you already know where you’re going to college, as well as any scholarship contacts to make sure that you’re getting the money you need.”
Taking a summer class before freshman year is a great way to get some pesky academic requirements out of the way, get a feel for campus and explore various interests. Make sure you do your research beforehand and gauge your willingness to study over the summer, and you’ll have a great time!
*Name has been changed.