A Few Thoughts on Summer College Courses

Most universities and colleges feature summer semester course offerings, and frequently these courses run on shortened and condensed schedules. For example, the typical 16-week semester gets condensed into 5-, 6-, or 8-week varieties with longer class meeting times and/or more frequent classes.

As a result the college student in a summer semester has to work at 2-3 times the pace of a class offered in a 16-week semester. This allows students the opportunity to knock out a few credits in a shortened term, but the downside to this curricular acceleration is that many students struggle to keep up with the pace.

I normally caution my summer semester students to jump into high gear immediately, though this advice occasionally gets ignored by the unwary. I am also amazed at the number of students who show up for a summer class and who have yet to purchase the required textbooks, which I always post months in advance. Even stranger was the student who recently asked me if "all of these books are actually going to be used."

Uh, yes: that's why I assigned them, dear student.

Admittedly I once learned the hard way about the accelerated pace of summer classes. I signed up for 20 undergraduate credits in the summer 0f 2002, being in a hurry to finish my BA. This was tough enough, but what I failed to consider in my zealous optimism was that 13 of these credits fell in the first 8-week summer session, meaning that I was essentially signed up for a 26-credit load over that shortened semester.

I slogged through and managed three As and an A minus, but I was exhausted after putting in many 14-hour days of study and class (plus I was working 40-plus hours as a server and bartender). Thus it is with the voice of experience that I urge everyone reading this short missive to pause before assuming that summer courses are somehow easier than a regular semester simply virtue of their length.

That, friends, is a dangerous assumption.

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