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Summer School or Summer Break: Find the Right Fit

This article appeared in a May 2016 issue of the student newsletter.

Should you register for Summer classes? This decision is not an easy one. Students struggle with the choice between taking a relaxing hiatus from their studies, or using the summer break to get ahead (or catch up). 

Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of signing up for May Term, Summer I or Summer II. As you read through these, keep in mind there are many other factors not listed here that could be important in your decision.  Like a summer job.

The Pros:

  • Short classes. Schedules for summer credit classes and continuing education classes are different at each college. However, each course typically lasts 3-8 weeks. This allows you to really focus in on a topic, which can be difficult during a typical semester that lasts 13-15 weeks.​
  • Less wait listing. Courses that are hard to get into during the fall or spring semester are often offered over the winter or summer terms to meet high demand. Seize this opportunity to take that class you've been dying to try, like Oceanography or Advanced Photoshop. 
  • A relaxed atmosphere. Summer courses are usually less formal and provide a relaxed learning environment. This often translates into more hands-on activities and increased discussion.
  • Smaller classes. Taking a hard class to get it out of the way? Thanks to smaller class sizes during summer, professors are able to give more individualized attention to students. 

The Cons:

  • Less time to socialize. Because summer classes are condensed into 3-8 weeks, they meet much more frequently (sometimes daily) and require a fair amount of studying outside the classroom. This means less free time during your summer for things like floating the Guadalupe River or Cool Thursdays at the Arboretum.
  • Procrastination is not an option. It simply won't fly in summer school! One missed class, test, or reading, can cause a domino effect where you quickly fall behind.
  • Lots of reading. If you're a slow reader, you may want to save Introduction to Shakespeare, or any class with a large amount of reading homework, for the fall or spring semester. It would be a shame to fall behind because you have too much reading and too little time.
  • School on warp speed. A fast-paced course can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your perspective. Professors will cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. You may have a quiz, a lab, and a midterm in the same week. 

Students Weigh In:

  • "Register early so you get the classes you want." - Andrea M.
  • "Don't expect professors to be nicer just because the weather is nicer. You still have to study." - Matt B.
  • "Final exams are easier for me … the material is still fresh." -Maya R.
  • "If you're going to take more than one [summer] class at a time, make sure one is an easy class. Like, don't register for organic chemistry and calculus. That's way too intense." -Daniel T.