Planning out a college class schedule is a special art. There are some classes that can be taken during winter break or “May intersession,” for instance, and those cram a whole semester’s worth of work into about two weeks—but substantially speed up the pace at which you acquire credits for graduation. You can also take summer classes, which is a great way to knock out some credits, but there are considerations to make when picking what, exactly, you’ll spend your summer toiling over.
Take your general courses in the summer
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What you can actually take over the summer will depend on what your school offers, but usually, it’s a blend of required courses and specific electives. This summer, I’m taking biostatistics, which is not something I am good at or confident in but is required, and health communications, which is something I’m interested in that meets an elective requirement. There are arguments for and against hard and enjoyable classes in the summer, but largely, you should try to stick to the required generals, as they’re most important. As College Raptor points out, getting your required classes done early leaves room for the classes you want to take during the regular school year, but there’s another benefit, too: If you do poorly in a required course in the summer, you can take it again in the regular year without getting behind schedule to graduate. Plus, summer classes are usually more involved on both students’ and instructors’ parts, as there are fewer other classes going on and students in the section.
Ngianhormua Yang, an adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies instructor at Lawrence Technological University, says you should take easier courses in the summer, since summer sessions tend to be shorter and you won’t get overloaded with complicated or difficult subject matter when it’s all truncated. If you want to take a more challenging general, he says, only take one.
It’s an “absolute no” to take career-specific, targeted classes in the summer, he adds. Save those for traditional semesters to maximize your time spent in the trenches on them.
Take transferable credits at another college
Yang also suggests taking any transferable generals at a cheaper college during the summer, then transferring the credits to your main institution. This does require gaining acceptance to another school and coordinating the whole thing in advance with both institutions so you don’t end up wasting your time and money on credits that don’t transfer. Moreover, it can really limit the classes you can take, as smaller and more inexpensive schools may not have a wide variety of courses that will transfer to meet your specific graduation needs. I did this the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of undergraduate school: It helped me graduate early in the end, and it was seamless. Admissions centers and school administrators are well-versed in how to handle these situations, so go to them and ask for help if you’re considering it.
Then again, Yang also says “it’s important for students—and educators, too—to decompress and reset” before the traditional academic year. If you don’t want to take summer classes, there’s always the option to simply not.