College students across America are blessed with generously long summer vacations. These extended breaks provide students with opportunities to partake in internships, find a job, travel the world, relax at home, or take summer classes. While enrolling in a course soon after finals may seem unappealing to a student who has just recently braved through an entire year of higher education, the benefits and sacrifices of such a decision are still worth considering.
With less flexible scheduling and a disturbing trend of increased 5-year graduation rates, spending a summer fulfilling your credit requirements may be a wise investment. However, it may also be an expensive endeavor.
Summer courses tend to be pricey, even when compared to regular tuition costs at average universities. Unless you’re taking a class at your local community college, expect to pay thousands of dollars for individual upper-division classes that you will only find at 4-year colleges. In addition, if you choose to take your course at a school other than your regular college, getting any significant financial aid can be tricky with the FAFSA deadlines, school registration, and the compressed summer timeline. This restricted window also affects the learning process.
Summer courses tend to last for a couple of months or even weeks, meaning that you’re going over a semester’s worth of material in a fraction of the time. This causes summer classes to adopt a concentrated and fast-paced structure, an inevitable characteristic that can be beneficial or detrimental to you depending on your study habits. Often you will find yourself sprinting through the material at an intense level and not receive the optimum amount of “soak time” for the subject-matter to sink in. For example, I myself am taking Organic Chemistry, and my typical summer week consists of 3 hours of lecture each day and two days with 4.5 additional hours of lab work. Combined with commuting times and hours of necessary studying, my schedule is indeed intense with a tepid amount of leisure time. However, I only have to focus on one course and one range of material, a luxury that some people can benefit from if they have trouble juggling multiple subjects.
Furthermore, when you attend these intense courses, you will find yourself surrounded by bright and motivated individuals. If someone chooses to enroll in a compressed class rather than enjoy the warm climate or make progress through the professional world via summer internships and job opportunities, there’s a good chance that they will take their studies seriously and inspire you to do the same.
Anything that requires a large investment of time and money must be approached with a thoughtful, calculated decision. Choosing whether to enroll in summer classes is no different. Before you hit the submit or pay button, make sure to identify your motives and goals. My personal journey of applying to numerous jobs before finding a receptive employer has shown me that the economy is obsessed with relevant work experience. Choosing to build more connections and enhance your resume may be worth the additional year of school if you can then use that experience and your expensive degree to achieve a stable, fulfilling career that can boost you to success.