Not sure what you’re doing this summer? Consider Summer School!

With Reading Week long past and exam season quickly approaching, many students have started planning for the next big break. Summer break can provide an opportunity for fun evenings with friends, catching up on favourite shows, learning new skills, and most importantly, catching up on sleep. In addition to some much-needed relaxation time, summer break can also provide students with the opportunity to enroll in spring and summer classes. This blog post will discuss all you need to know about summer school should you decide to sign up!

Advantages

  1. You can focus on one task at a time. During the fall and winter terms, many students have to manage a full course load with assignments and midterms piling up throughout the semester. However, during summer school, students are limited to a maximum of 2 courses per term at McMaster University (this may vary with other universities). As a result, the workload tends to be more manageable and focused, which often allows students to achieve higher grades.¹
  2. Spring/summer courses can reduce your fall/winter course load. By taking required courses over the spring/summer term, students can lighten the workload they have during the fall and winter semesters. Therefore, students are less likely to be overwhelmed by a heavy course load, and this allows them to take more breaks and spend more time on extracurriculars, activities, and events.²
  3. Higher grades. Various studies, including a study by Marshall et al. (2012) have shown that student grades are significantly higher in summer school.³ Students often use the spring and summer as a chance to take more difficult pre-requisite courses, like organic chemistry, to improve their focus and grades.
  4. It’s a chance to explore unique courses. Whether it be due to the requirements of one’s program, heavy workloads, or fear of a low GPA, many students are unable to take electives they have an interest in during the fall and winter terms. Summer school provides an opportunity to take those courses without concerns and allows one to explore new academic passions. Some students may even opt to go outside McMaster University and take courses at other institutions.² (NOTE: if you want to do this, talk to your academic advisor and check if transfer credits are possible!)

Disadvantages

  1. Fast-Paced learning. Given that spring and summer classes only last two months, as opposed to the usual four, the course timelines are very condensed and fast-paced. As a result, students will need to work on their time management skills and stay on task. If you are someone who needs to take time to review content, visit office hours, and work in study groups, summer classes may be challenging. Don’t be fooled by the shorter timeline: to achieve high grades, students are required to put in as much effort, and sometimes more, as they do in fall and winter classes.³
  2. Less downtime. Due to the amount of content that students need to learn, it can be difficult to take breaks. As a result, students may experience high-stress levels and constant learning can lead to burnout.¹ If you find that this is the case during summer school, please reach out to your friends, family, and/or professors for support.
  3. Graduate/Professional Schools. Some graduate and professional schools will weigh courses less or will not consider courses that have been taken over the spring/summer term. The information for each school/program is unique, so we recommend that you look into all the programs you are potentially interested in and determine the admission requirements prior to making decisions about summer school courses, and more generally, courses you take throughout your undergraduate degree.

Other Factors to Consider

  1. Course Availability. Courses that students are interested in, or are required to take may not always be offered. Therefore, it’s important to review which courses are being offered at your university, and other universities when you are considering enrollment.
  2. Other Pursuits. While summer school can allow students to complete degree requirements earlier, the summer is also an opportunity for various experiences. Learning to drive, participating in extracurriculars, getting a summer job, volunteering, or spending time with friends and family are all things that can be done during summer break, but summer school may affect those plans.¹
  3. Time for a break. The fall and winter semesters take a toll on everyone due to non-stop assignments and midterms, and of course, the dreaded final exams. Summer finally allows students to take a break and relax. If you feel that it is more important to take the time to care for yourself and your mental health before the next year starts, prioritize this feeling.

On a final note…

Make sure to plan ahead and consider both advantages and disadvantages before enrolling in summer school. If you are planning on taking courses at other universities, consider speaking to your academic advisor to learn more about the process, and also do your own research to find course lists and enrolment deadlines.

The McMaster University spring and summer course list has already been posted and is available here. Students can start enrolling in classes on Monday, March 15th at 9 a.m. through Mosaic. And remember, you can always make changes to your schedule for spring courses before the spring add/drop date (Monday May 10th), or summer courses before the summer add/drop date (Monday June 28th).

Written by: Valerie Chow

References

  1. To Take Summer Courses or Not, That Is the Question. Science.ubc.ca. Retrieved 4 March 2021, from https://science.ubc.ca/students/blog/take-summer-courses-or-not.
  2. Are summer school classes really worth it?. Universityhq.org. Retrieved 4 March 2021, from https://universityhq.org/resources/college-planning-guide/are-summer-school-classes-really-worth-it/.
  3. Marshall, P., Lafond, S., & Valente, J. (2012). Do Students Learn in Summer School College Majors Classes? Grade Comparison and Student Self-Assessment Indicate In the Affirmative. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, 43(2), 61–66. Retrieved March 4, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23206700

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