Summer School: The Secret to College Success

Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer

There are usually fewer students, so professors can spend more time with you individually, and the pace of campus life is a little slower. Best of all, you’re likely to learn more and get better grades.

Of course, there are downsides to summer school. One is that if you have to work, it may be more difficult to find a job. When you combine this with the cost of summer school, it may prove to be a significant financial burden.

A second downside—and probably your first thought—is how it will cut into summer vacation fun time. All things considered, this is not really an issue. You probably won’t have a full course load, leaving you plenty of weekday afternoons or even full days to hit the beach. And with some time management savvy, you will still manage to have fun. Besides, admit it, most of the “fun” things you do in the summer (videogame/cheesy movie/see-how-long-you-can-go-without-bathing marathons) aren’t a huge sacrifice. If some activity is really fun and meaningful to you, there’s a good chance you will figure out how to do it anyway. A few days of hiking and camping with friends can be squeezed in, but there is not a whole lot of benefit to sleeping late because you watched movies until 1:00 a.m.

A campus in the summer is a whole different place. Everything is less crowded, and you will actually be more efficient. If you eat in the cafeteria, there are fewer crowds, and everything in the library is more available. Remarkably, the low-key atmosphere will not extend to your commitment, and most students who take summer classes seem to be more serious about them.

Some students take the hardest courses in the summer. They do this because of the availability of help from the teacher and less pressure from other courses. Taking the hard courses in the summer might improve your GPA, but what is more important, you will probably learn the material better.

Other students take courses in which they have a special interest during the summer. A writing, art, or theater course can be much more enjoyable if you have an opportunity to savor it without the panic of studying for four other courses at the same time. As an added benefit, you might find that other students are taking the course for the same reason, and the sense of collegiality will be wonderful. Finally if it’s an especially popular course, summer may be your best bet for getting into it.

One of the most important reasons for taking a summer course is to be sure you graduate on time. It’s easy to miss a required course because of scheduling or other issues. Making up the course in the summer can save you a whole semester or even a year. It may also save you a lot of money.

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