Ah, summer—lounging by the pool with a cold drink in hand, getting a tan, and flipping through magazines for the pure fun of it. Sounds like a dream come true for college students that are eager to take a break from the books!
Other students understand the multiple benefits of taking college summer classes and decide to enroll in a few courses instead. Don’t worry, it is possible to balance extra schoolwork with relaxation, and besides—you might realize that some of these benefits are too good to pass up!
Summer sessions are much shorter than the fall and spring semesters, meaning that you’ll be able to earn college credit in a shorter period of time. For example, during Summer 2011, the University of South Florida is offering summer sessions which last from May 16 through June 24, and June 27 through August 5. One of the University of Georgia’s 2011 summer sessions runs from May 17 through June 7—quite a difference from 16-week semesters!
Keep in mind, though, that shorter class duration translates into longer class sessions. You will most likely have to attend class every single day of the week for several hours per day during the summer, as opposed to twice per week for an hour or two during the regular school year. Because there will a lot of information to cover in a shorter time span; coursework, term papers, and exams will seem much more intense.
The University of Pittsburgh promotes summer school as a way for students to take classes and labs that are often full during the more-crowded fall and spring semesters, a scenario that is common at many colleges. In fact, some students aren’t able to graduate in four years due to overcrowded classes, but summer school may help you graduate on time. If that isn’t an issue in your case, summer courses can help lighten your load during the regular school year—giving you more time to work or more personal time.
Many colleges and universities encourage incoming freshmen to enroll in summer classes to get a jump start on things. Some schools even offer programs for younger students, giving them the opportunity to take certain courses for college credit before they even graduate from high school.
The North Carolina State University Summer START program provides incoming college students with the ability to get off on the right foot while building a strong sense of community.
Free tutoring and structured study groups are only two of the many benefits NCSU offers in the summer, and nearly all Summer START participants completely enjoy their experiences—their grades even reflect their enthusiasm! Research found that all Summer START 2010 students agreed they made new friends they could count on during the fall semester while over 94% of students understood what was expected of them in college after completing the program.
The majority of college students who live on-campus pack up and head home for the summer, which means that some residence halls will be closed, dining facilities will be less crowded, and there will be far fewer people on campus than usual.
It might seem strange at first, but experiencing the benefits of your college—computer labs, libraries, gyms and workout facilities, and more—without fighting through crowds will be a welcome change. You’ll most likely be able to speak with your professors one-on-one without waiting several days for an appointment.
If you’re unable to enroll in summer classes because of financial restrictions or any other reasons, there are other educational alternatives that may interest you:
There has been quite a bit of controversy over unpaid internships in recent months, as Inside Higher Ed pointed out in April 2011, but it is possible to land a decent-paying quality part-time job or an ethical internship in your field of study during the summer. You’ll gain experience, learn some inside information from people with established careers, and have a bit of an edge over your classmates simply because you took the initiative to learn outside of the classroom setting.
Volunteer work is another great idea for college students who decide to pass on summer courses. You can volunteer a few hours per week or a few hours per month while keeping a part-time job to boost your bank account. Not only does volunteering allow you to help others, it provides the opportunity to learn about various organizations and how they are run. The College Board even points out that volunteering can help students develop leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
P.S. Volunteering is also an excellent way to network—you never know who you might meet!
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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