by Tim Pate
College offers a variety of ways for students to ensure their success, and summer school is among those available opportunities. At Colorado State, summer school is offered in three sessions throughout the season, each lasting four weeks. Students have the choice to take classes during all sessions, or to just choose one or two to fit their schedules.
Having never participated in summer school myself, I decided to investigate the benefits and drawbacks of the sessions. The choice of whether or not to enroll in summer classes is highly subjective, so this post aims to serve only as a guide for students who may be considering the option. The following information was gained from asking multiple summer-school participants to share their experiences.
Summer school sessions, as mentioned earlier, are much briefer than classes taken during the regular school year. However, students in summer sessions have the capability of earning the same amount of credits in a shorter time period. This characteristic is highly beneficial for students who need to catch up on classwork in order to graduate on time. Short summer classes can also simply lessen the course load students need to take, which can decrease stress levels during the normal school year.
Classes during summer sessions are predictably smaller – most with only 20 students or fewer. This means that professors have more capacity to address individual student issues than during the regular school year. Students enrolled in labs have found this feature especially useful, because the hands-on coursework occasionally requires specialized attention.
Depending on how students schedule their courses and which classes they take, summer sessions generally still allow time for students to work. It is not difficult for students to schedule their classes in strategic blocks of time in order for them to still be available for work. While the regular school year and its full load of credits can make work schedules difficult to manage, summer classes can be squeezed together easily, and students can earn money while still attending classes.
Some students have had issues with the fast-paced nature of summer classes. Because coursework is all crammed together over a four-week timescale, professors must conduct tests more frequently – usually every week. This means that students have less time to study and must move quickly in order to keep up with the coursework. Depending on your study style, this feature could be a drawback.
Given the brevity of the classes, it is almost inevitable that some content be cut from summer courses. I have heard that math and engineering courses generally provide the same content just at a much quicker pace, but most classes appear to leave bits out. Depending on the depth of understanding a student hopes to glean from a class, this fact should be something to take into consideration.
Finally, one must consider the tradeoff of free time for education. Each individual must analyze whether to devote time to classes or to enjoy the summer months. Sometimes summer classes are necessary, but other times it’s a matter of spreading the college work load over a longer time frame to reduce stress. The decision is truly that of the student.
The consensus from the folks with whom I talked regarding Summer Session at CSU was quite positive. Despite some minor challenges that come with enrolling in summer classes, every student with whom I talked recommended the courses as a way to stay on track for graduation. None of them felt overwhelmed by the course load, but did emphasize that it is a commitment to attend class five days per week. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Make the choice that best serves your needs; just be sure that you come to a conclusion with all the necessary information.