College Classes To Take During Summer

Summer can be an excellent time to earn credits in college. The classes tend to be smaller, the feel of the campus is much more relaxed, and some Professors even ease back their course requirements to match the more casual feel of summer term. But I’ve seen students run in to problems during summer term, ones they didn’t expect, because they weren’t familiar with how to effectively use the summer session for classes in college. The key to having a productive summer and taking worthwhile classes always lies in planning out what to take and when. I took classes every summer during my undergraduate and graduate studies, so I’ve seen directly that they can be a worthwhile effort. Earning credits then means you don’t have to overload with credits during the regular school year, which makes your life much easier.

Summer Term Session Lengths And Planning

Summer terms can be very different from the regular semester, and the offerings across colleges can vary wildly. In the 10 week quarter system, summer is very simple, there is only one term which is a summer quarter. But for semester colleges, summer terms can range from 3 weeks to a full 15 week semester. The most common time periods are what colleges call Summer I and Summer II, each being six weeks long. Some colleges offer a three week pre-session or “Maymester” that happens before Summer I and II begin, which allows students to earn additional credits. At other schools their only offerings might only be four week classes that run consecutively for entire summer, with no choice of longer periods, and this comprises their entire summer program. To know the lengths and types of a summer period sessions a college offers, you’ll have to check the school’s academic calendar to see for yourself.

The problem with these varying summer course lengths is that they are always the equivalent of a 15 full-semester week class, but in a shorter time frame. The content isn’t removed to shorten the class, the class just moves faster to cover it in a smaller amount of time. Because of this reason, students need to consider that shorter classes will be harder, since they will move at a pace that is far beyond what they might expect. For example, three week classes can be brutal, I’ve taken them at the undergraduate and graduate level, so I can confidently tell you they are only for the strongest students. Students will most likely meet five days a week for three or four hours each day, and might have an exam every few days (or in my case, a 50 question test each day on two text books, Monday through Friday, for 3 weeks!). Taking one class in six weeks is far more comfortable, but not two, since that’s the equivalent of the one class in three week format. The rule of thumb, especially for difficult classes in the summer, is the longer the session the better since it gives students more time to complete the work and bounce back if they fall behind. With a short time frame class, it’s nearly impossible to catch up if something happens to drag them off track.

While students could take any class in summer that they want (provided they meet the prerequisites) there are some useful classes I see students take during summer every year. These include:

Public Speaking

Public speaking is a course that is excellent to take during summer. Believe it or not, it is required to graduate by about half of the colleges in the US, and the rest see it as a highly transferable class that will meet a requirement for core classes, humanities, or other general education categories. Many students simply don’t like to talk in front of others, so summer term can be an ideal time to knock off this requirement. The classes are usually smaller, more laid back, and the more intimate summer setting can help students to relax during the process of having to give a speech. The average Public Speaking class will have few tests and more speeches, and there are some predictable types. The Professor might have students do an informative speech where they educate the class on a topic, or a persuasive speech where they try to convince the audience to take action or advocate a certain perspective. Either way, summer is a nice time to take care of this requirement, and Public Speaking is one of those classes you could take in a six week summer session by itself because it’s less studying and more performing.

Foreign Language Requirements

Many colleges in the US have a universal foreign language requirement that all of their students must meet to graduate. Languages taken in high school may satisfy this requirement at some schools, but others require that you earn AP credits for it, so getting out of taking a language in college is not guaranteed. Many college students dread having to complete foreign languages since they are typically difficult to learn and take up a lot of time, especially without a high school background in that subject. This is why taking a language class by itself during summer, if they need one to graduate, allows students to dedicate their full-focus to doing well in that class. Foreign languages courses in college are notoriously time-consuming classes, so taking them during the regular semester can really draw attention away from a student’s other classes. Some brave students decide to take them in the summer in consecutive six week sessions. For example, taking Spanish I – then after a 10 day break Spanish II – to immerse themselves in a single topic so they could can make progress on this requirement without splitting their focus. However, these will be very busy six week periods, and the classes may meet 4 or 5 times a week, so the classes will dominate your life if you take this route. If you don’t have a high school background in that language, you might want to just take one class in a longer session during summer, and the second level of that language during a different term.

Prerequisites For Fall or Spring Classes

Most second-year and above college classes will have one or more courses that must be taken before students are allowed to sign up for them. These are called the “prerequisite” classes, and are considered preparatory for a next level class. For example, a student wouldn’t want to take Physics II without taking Physics I, because they’ll just be lost and never pass the class. But there can be surprising prerequisites at some colleges that students don’t see coming that can be easily taken during summer. For example, to take an Introduction To Philosophy or Psychology class, some schools require that College Writing I be taken. Summer is the perfect time to complete any prerequisites that otherwise would stop a student from signing up for the courses that they want or need to take during the regular school year. Usually a college will have the prerequisite classes listed in the description of a course a student wants to take, so they can make a list of these required classes in order to help them plan what to take during summer.

Taking Difficult Classes By Themselves

Every student has a class that they are worried about taking. Math majors worry about taking Differential Equations, Psychology Majors worry about taking Research Statistics, and Business Majors dread having to take Calculus as part of their major’s requirements. Summer session can be the perfect time to tackle the classes that students need to give 100% of their focus, and even better, they can often pick a time frame that lets them manage the pace. Taking a difficult class in a three week term is a huge mistake, but students might find that a school has an eight or ten week summer term that fits better. One important thing to keep in mind is that, if a school doesn’t have the class in a time frame that they want, students may be able to take it elsewhere and transfer the credits back to their home school. For example, every summer literally thousands of students take summer classes at a community college then transfer credits back to their home school, so it’s a well known option for meeting requirements on the way to graduation. And, like I mentioned, taking a tough class not at their home school can help to protect their GPA there because credits transfer but typically grades do not.

In Summary

Summer can be an excellent time to take college courses, and with a little planning students can complete requirements such as Public Speaking, foreign languages, or many classes that are a prerequisite for ones at their home school. But it’s important to consider the time frame, since three or four week classes are often way too fast. By planning classes with their Advisor, seeing what courses are offered, then favoring long sessions to give them more time to work, summer session can be highly productive for many students.

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