Everything You Need to Know About Summer College Courses

Your questions about taking summer college classes answered.

Many college students consider taking summer courses for various reasons.

Whether it be to get ahead in credit hours, makeup credit hours due to falling behind, replace a poor final class grade, or simply for the love of learning–taking college courses in the summer can be advantageous for college students.

In today’s blog post, all your questions and concerns about summer college classes will be answered.

We will discuss whether it is even worth it to take summer classes, how many credit hours you should take, the difficulty level of them, the cost of taking classes during the summers versus the fall or spring, tips on surviving summer college classes, and more.

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Not all colleges and universities handle summer courses the same way

This blog post is intended to be a general guideline or overview of what to expect if you chose to take college classes during the summer.

Not all colleges and universities operate the same during the summer semester.

With that being said, it is strongly advised that you research and learn how your college or university handles the summer semester to help you make the best-informed decision for yourself and your education.

Can you take classes over the summer?

Yes, you can take classes over the summer at most, if not all colleges and universities.

If your college does not offer summer college courses or not the exact class you need, you can take summer college courses at another university near you or online.

Just be sure if you do take classes at another university during the summer that you talk to your academic advisor beforehand to ensure the credits you take will transfer to the university you are enrolled in.

So for example, if you take courses at University B for the summer, but you are primarily enrolled at University A, be sure the credits you take at University B will transfer over to University A.

It would be disappointing to take classes at another university and not get the credit you deserve for taking them, passing them, and ultimately paying money for them. So double, even triple check, those credits will transfer.

Does taking summer classes look bad?

No, taking summer classes does not look bad on your academic transcript, to future employers, or graduate school programs that you want to apply to. In most cases, taking summer college classes can benefit you academically.

The benefits of taking college classes in the summer

There are many benefits to taking summer courses in college. In this section, we will discuss several of these benefits, which make taking college classes in the summer totally worth it.

Taking summer college courses can help boost your GPA

Unfortunately in college, there may be a time where a class you took did not go as planned.

Perhaps you didn’t end up with the final grade you wanted or you needed to withdraw from the class due to its difficulty level or some conflict in your personal life that interrupted your academics.

By taking summer classes you can retake the class you didn’t do well in and your new grade (hopefully it is a better grade) will replace the previous grade which can help boost your grade point average (GPA).

However, be aware that in college you will have multiple GPAs and they are all calculated differently.

It is best for you to check with your own university for their grading and GPA calculation policy and how they take into account classes you have retaken when calculating your GPA.

At the university I attended in undergrad, we had three main GPAs: a term GPA, institutional GPA, and cumulative GPA.

The term GPA was the GPA we earned from all of our classes in a single semester. So for example, Fall Semester 2020 3.0 GPA and then Spring 2021 3.5 GPA.

The institutional GPA was the GPA that took into account all classes you had taken, but only counted the highest grade you earned in each class. So if you retook a class, your previous lower grade would not influence your institutional GPA.

The cumulative GPA, however, took into account all classes and all grades earned in those classes regardless of how many times you retook them.

Taking classes in the summer can help you catch up on the credit hours you need to graduate

If you had to withdraw from a class in a previous semester or if you wanted to make your fall or spring semester easier by having less classes, you will probably end up behind on your schedule to graduate.

To “catch up” you can take courses in the summer, which can help you make up the credit hours you could have earned during a regular fall or spring semester.

However, don’t plan on taking a ton of classes in the summer in order to get back on track to graduate.

Taking too many summer college classes can be a recipe for disaster. We will address how many credit hours you should take in the summer a little later in this post.

Taking summer classes can help you graduate from college earlier

For some college students, they want to get through college as fast as possible so they can get on with life. And that’s totally understandable. There’s definitely more to life than college.

If you have the desire to graduate early, taking college courses during the summer can help you earn more credit hours, which in return, can help you graduate earlier.

I personally took at least two summer courses every summer semester and I was able to graduate one semester early with my Bachelor of Science in Psychology. I was not intending to graduate college early by any means, but it was a nice added bonus.

But like I said earlier, don’t try to take as many summer classes as possible just to graduate early.

Taking too many classes during the summer can actually be more overwhelming than taking a full course load during the fall and spring semester because you have less time to learn the material.

It’s better to take your time in college and actually learn your course material than to rush through college and only make “C’s” in all of your courses.

And while yes, “C’s get degrees,” it’s going to be worthwhile for you to stay in college longer so you can acquire the knowledge and skills needed to survive in the workforce.

Taking summer courses can help you required general education classes out of the way sooner

Going to college, especially at the beginning, is a lot like high school. That is, you take a lot of the same classes you took in high school.

From college algebra, world history, English literature, economics, biology, and government–your first year or two of college will require you to repeat the subjects you have learned about since elementary school.

You can get around these required general education courses by taking college courses in high school through a dual enrollment program or taking AP classes and passing the AP exam.

However, if neither of those two options is available to you, taking summer college courses can help expedite your completion of these courses and get you into your upper-level courses for your college major or minor.

College Survival Tip: Try to save some of your general education courses to take while you are taking upper-level courses for your major or minor. Having “easier” classes to break up your harder, more rigorous courses can help keep you sane during your junior and senior year of college.

During the summer semesters of college, I took a mix of general education courses and courses I needed to take for my psychology major. Each semester, I would usually took one general education course and one course for my major to give myself variety and to make the summer semester not feel as heavy.

Taking classes during the summer can help you transition to a new major or minor

A lot of college students enter college with one major in mind and by the time they graduate they have already changed majors five times.

In fact, 30% of college students will change their major at least once within the first three years of their bachelor’s degree. So don’t feel alone or out of place if you decide your current major is not working for you.

However, changing your major or minor can set your graduation date back significantly depending on how drastic the switch was.

One way to catch back up is to take classes during the summer to get yourself back on track to graduate, get a feel for the rigor of your new major or minor, and transition more smoothly into your new major or minor.

It is a lot easier to take one or two classes for your new major or minor in the summer than to suddenly take 5 courses for them in the fall or spring semester.

The main consequence to taking summer college classes

Taking classes during the summer is not all rainbows and butterflies. Besides the fact that you will need to pay money to take these classes, taking summer courses can make it feel like you never got an actual summer break.

This can lead to burnout and lack of motivation to study quickly, which as a result, can make your perform worse academically.

To alleviate burnout, try to not take too many courses during the summer and find ways to separate your college studies from your personal life without totally getting distracted from your studies.

For instance, make time to work out or be out in the summer sun at least once a day, try to meditate or practice mindfulness in the morning before class, or pick up a hobby you can dedicate an hour or two a day to–like blogging (which is exactly what I’m doing in graduate school).

The structure of summer college classes

One of the benefits of taking summer college classes is that there is a variety of class formats and semester lengths.

However, not all classes will be offered in summer and not all classes will be available in every format or duration, so check with your university’s registrar to see what courses are being offered for the upcoming summer semester.

Class formats in the summer

Just like your regular fall and spring semesters, summer college courses are offered as:

  • 100% face-to-face
  • 100% online
  • Hybrid format (mix of face-to-face and online)

However, with the current times we are living in, it is more common to see 100% online or hybrid format classes rather than 100% face-to-face classes.

If you do take an online summer course, know before committing to the class how the professor prefers to meet with their students, either synchronous or asynchronous, and make sure it fits with your summer plans.

Some professors have their course synchronous.

Synchronous means you meet with your classmates and professor at a regular time every week via video conference call (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Collab Ultra, etc.)

Other professors make their course asynchronous, which means there is no set meeting time with your classmates and professor and it is up to you to keep up with the course materials.

You may also like: Zoom Classroom Etiquette Tips for College Students

Are summer classes every day?

One key difference between the fall and spring semesters and summer semesters is the length of the semester.

In general, summer semesters are half the number of weeks of fall and spring semesters, but they can be even shorter than that.

The different lengths of summer semesters you may see are:

  • 2-week
  • 4-week
  • 6-week
  • 8-week
  • 10-week

Typically, the shorter the semester duration, the more often you need to meet with your class, and the faster the course pace will be.

For example, in a 2-week college course (may be called a Maymester or May session), you will typically meet with your professor and classmates four times a week for up to five hours each day.

In an 8-week course, you will usually meet twice a week for about three hours each class session.

Also, because different semester lengths are offered during the summer, you can mix-and-match your summer courses. This can be a great workaround if you want to take multiple summer classes without being overwhelmed by taking them all at once.

For example, the summer semester before I graduated, I took a Maymester and then started two 8-week courses right after I completed my Maymester course. So I ended up taking 3 summer courses, which is typically not advised to do.

Speaking of which…

How many credit hours should I take in the summer?

There is no one size fits all answer to this question because it depends on your individual schedule outside of school and your ability to endure a fast-paced learning environment.

However, I recommend not taking more than two 8 or 10-week summer classes. And only taking one Maymester (2-week) and or one 4-week summer class.

And if you are new to taking summer college classes, it may be best to take one just to get a feel for the pacing of the summer semester at your college or university.

Should I take 3 classes in the summer?

Now, of course, there are some college students who want to grind through college as quickly as possible and may be tempted to take 3 or more college classes during the summer.

As mentioned previously, I would recommend not taking more than two 8-week or 10-week courses and limiting yourself to one Maymester (2-week) or one 4-week course.

However, you can mix and match your summer courses to fit in 3 or even 4 college classes without burning yourself out.

For example, you could take one Maymester class and two 8-week or 10-week summer classes, which would be less stressful than taking three 8-week summer courses at once.

You may also like: How to Create the Perfect Class Schedule in College

When it comes to deciding how many credit hours to take during the summer, know that your college or university will limit how many credit hours you can take during the summer.

Again, it is best to check with your university’s registrar and academic policy for more specific information.

In my experience, my university capped us at 12 credit hours per summer semester but recommended 9 credit hours for undergraduates and graduate students.

Are summer classes harder or easier?

Although this answer is highly subjective to the classes you choose and the professors you take the classes with, generally speaking, summer classes are harder.

Not academically harder per se, that’s very course-specific, but pacing wise it can be more overwhelming if you are not used to consuming so much information at once or dedicating a lot of time to studying.

However, summer classes can be easier too because the semester is shorter.

That could potentially mean fewer requirements to complete and pass the course (like no big semester project or a shorter-term paper).

If you are looking for course specifics in regards to difficulty level during the summer, I would recommend reaching out to friends or classmates in your major or minor classes. See if they can provide any additional insights on what to expect.

You could also ask on Reddit if your university has a subreddit or looking up reviews on Rate My Professor. However, take all information you receive with a grain of salt. It can be highly biased.

Are college summer classes cheaper?

In general, summer tuition tends to cheaper than fall and spring tuition because you are not taking as many credit hours.

Even though you are taking fewer credit hours, you will most likely still need to pay student fees for parking, dining, your on-campus recreational center, and so forth.

This can be a con to taking summer classes especially if you only plan on taking one summer course and don’t plan to utilize the various services on campus your student fees cover.

In that case, it may be more advantageous for you to take at least two summer courses to get the most bang for your buck.

There is also the opportunity to get financial aid for your college summer classes through FAFSA, private student loans, and scholarships.

Again, it is important for you to double-check with your university’s financial policies regarding summer tuition and opportunities to receive financial assistance.

Not all universities are the same and some may charge more for summer classes than in the fall or spring. Summer tuition can also differ if you go to a private versus a public university or are classified as a resident or non-resident student.

How do you pass summer classes in college?

Summer college classes can be difficult to adjust to academically especially if you are taking a 2-week, 4-week, or even 6-week course.

Due to the fast-paced nature of summer courses, it is very important that you create systems for yourself to ensure you are keeping up with course materials, making time to study, and complete assignments.

Here are some tips to help you pass your summer classes in college:

  • Utilize a planning system: Whether you choose to go digital or paper, having a planner, agenda, calendar, or notebook to keep all your due dates in will be a key component to your success taking college classes in the summer. I personally love bullet journaling as a method of planning.

  • Time management is key: To make the most out of your summer and still succeed in your summer classes, you will want to establish good time management skills. Being able to manage your time well will help you overcome procrastination and still be able to enjoy summer activities like going to the lake or simply hanging out with friends more. I highly recommend using the Pomodoro Technique to help boost your productivity and manage your time more efficiently.

  • Don’t skip class! Skipping class in the summer is like missing two weeks of class. It is so easy to fall behind during summer classes, so avoid missing class like it’s your job.

  • Go to your professor’s office hours or seek out tutoring: Since summer classes are shorter there is less time to make up for bad grades. If you are finding a certain concept challenging for you, make the effort to seek out help sooner than later. If you push it off, before you know it, it will be finals week and you’ll still be struggling to understand class material from week 2.

Should I drop my summer class?

Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to drop a class during the summer semester due to bad grades, the professor not being a good match for your learning style, or personal matters.

You may also: What You Need To Do If You’re Failing A Class and Receiving Financial Aid for College

If you are thinking about dropping your summer class or classes, first, talk to your professor about it.

Maybe they could provide you with feedback to help you improve on future assignments, connect you with a student who can tutor you, or even offer an extra credit opportunity.

If dropping the class ends up being your best option, make sure to plan on when you will retake the class especially if it’s a required class to graduate.

Before dropping, double check that you are withdrawing from the class either on or before the withdraw without academic penalty date. We will discuss this topic further…

Withdrawal types and how they influence your GPA

Each semester, there is a withdraw without academic penalty date which is the last day you can drop a class and receive a “W” as the final course grade.

A “W,” which simply means withdraw and it will not influence your GPA, but it will be on your academic transcript.

If you drop a class after the withdraw without academic penalty date you will earn a “WF” which means you withdraw and failed the class. Any WF’s you receive in college will impact your GPA and will be on your academic transcript.

A WF can have a significant impact on your GPA and it is not recommended at all to have a WF in a class. It honestly would be better to receive a plain ol’ F than a WF. Or even a D and just retake the class again in the future.

If you are struggling with your summer classes due to a serious psychological, medical, or personal problems, you can see if you can receive an emergency withdrawal instead of a WF if it is passed the withdraw without academic penalty date.

When requesting an emergency withdrawal be prepared to provide documentation, as evidence for the necessity of your withdrawal.

Final thoughts on taking college courses during the summer

Taking summer college classes can be a great way to get ahead in your college coursework, make up for classes you did not previously do well in, get your general education courses out of the way, and boost your GPA.

I would highly recommend taking at least one summer college course in your college journey to get the experience and reap the benefits of taking classes in the summer.

Related posts to taking summer classes in college:

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