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7 Benefits Of Taking Summer or Winter Courses in College

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Three students sitting outside at a picnic table. They write in open notebooks and read books.

Summer and winter breaks are the best time to wind down from a difficult semester of classes. It’s time to sleep in and break away from being hard at work.

Maybe during your break, you plan on traveling and seeing new places. Or maybe you plan on simply winding down at home to reconnect with some friends and family after a long semester of being apart. 

But, what if I were to explain an effective way to spend your time over your summer or winter break?  

Have you ever thought about taking summer or winter classes? Sure…the thought of having more schoolwork during your vacation may be enough to make you cringe (or cry), but there are many hidden benefits to doing so!

Ease Your Workload

For one, summer and winter courses make it possible to lighten your workload throughout the fall and spring semesters. Many majors that require a lot of work-intensive classes, such as computer science and engineering, often cause large amounts of stress due to how much work must be completed in one semester.

By taking classes during the winter or summer months, you can ease your course load during the fall and spring. Thinking about double majoring, or minoring? Or joining intense extracurriculars, like college sports, visual arts or student government? By taking summer and winter courses, you can have an easier time balancing your academics and extracurriculars. That way, you make time for the things you WANT to do. 

Maybe you want to lighten your workload for other reasons. College student life is super important to a well-rounded college experience. If you want to leave more time to go out and spend time with your peers, having lighter course loads during your fall and spring semesters will give you the opportunity to spend more time with your friends while also making sure you can successfully complete your classes.

Important to remember: Make sure you’re taking enough credits during your fall and spring semesters to be considered a full-time student! Each college has their own credit minimum. If you are not considered a full-time student, this can affect any financial aid or scholarship offers received. 

Have More Time For Harder Classes

You can also dedicate a summer or winter semester to a subject that is one that you would typically need to dedicate more time to in order to succeed. Many classes required for certain majors can be especially difficult, and it is totally normal to study a subject that requires a bit more of your time and effort than others. Give yourself that time to succeed by taking the class during the summer and winter months!

You can consider taking courses in general education, or core courses (science, foreign language, math, etc.), since these may require more time to study and master the material. Personally, my weakest subject is mathematics, so I was worried of having to fit math in my schedule during the fall or spring since I had a large course load with all my other subjects.

Taking math in the summer gave me much more time to study the material since I didn’t have coursework to complete in other classes. By taking more difficult courses in the summer or winter semester, you can centralize your time and energy to that one subject and then dedicate your semester to ensure that A grade for your transcript! 

4 Ways To Grow Professionally This Summer

Make Important Connections

Taking a course during the summer or winter is a good way to make extra connections you wouldn’t normally make during the fall and spring semesters. It’s often hard to get to know your peers in a large class with over 200 people. However, summer courses are often limited in students, and that class that may pack a lecture hall may only take up a small classroom during the summer or winter. Taking courses during your break will give you opportunities to get to know peers around you, which may help you make more meaningful connections that will strengthen your social circle.

However, relationships with your peers aren’t the only kinds of relationships you can make: teacher-student relationships have the potential to strengthen during the winter and summer months. With smaller class sizes, professors will more likely be able to put a face to your name on the roster.

You will have more opportunities to strike up small talk with your professors, whether it be about topics discussed in class or how you share disappointment over how the best coffee house on-campus is closed during break. This will benefit you in the short term by giving you more opportunities to speak to your professor about material you don’t understand, as well as in the long term when you need a professor to write a recommendation letter for you! 

Increase Your GPA

Had a rough couple of semesters? That’s one more reason to consider taking summer and winter classes. By taking more courses (successfully, of course), you give your transcript more grades to add. In other words, if you get two A grades during the summer or winter semester, your overall GPA will increase!

GPA increases aren’t the only benefit to taking summer or winter courses, however. If you’re a college student who has failed a course, retaking the course during the summer or winter months is a wonderful way of making up for lost time. Some colleges even offer a complete replacement of a failing grade on your transcript with the new grade you earn after retaking the class! Speak with your school’s Dean or academic advisor on how retaking courses can benefit you. 

Graduate Early

Are you eager to graduate early? That’s great! By taking summer and winter courses, you’ll increase the likelihood of graduating a semester or potentially even a year early!

There are plenty of benefits to getting your degree quicker, one being a topic all college students worry about: money! By graduating early, you save the money you would have had to pay for another semester’s worth of classes. This also includes any potential housing and service fees.

If you take out loans as a college student, taking courses during your breaks will help you stop taking loans out and will give you a head start on earning money to repay those loans. Early graduation also helps you enter the workforce earlier and will give you real world experience faster than you intended! 

Explore Different Subjects

If you are having a tough time deciding what you want to study, or if you are currently second-guessing your major, taking summer or winter courses may just help you find your spark. Take the time to read up on some of the courses offered during break semesters and see if any classes intrigue your interest.

By taking these classes in the winter or summer, you can have the time to explore a new subject you wouldn’t normally explore. Perhaps you’re a biology major but you’re interested in taking a photography class over your break. Not only will you be spending your break studying something you’ve had a desire to explore, but you’ll also be x amount of credits closer to your graduation. 

If you decide to change your major last minute, taking classes over the summer is a great way to catch up on the coursework you need to complete your degree requirements. That way, you can still graduate on time with your peers!

Keep Your Mind Active

If you’re usually an active person, taking summer or winter courses is a great solution to keeping busy during breaks. For some, staying engaged in activity is crucial to maintaining their productivity rate. If you are the kind of person who needs to stay busy, then taking a summer or winter course to stay productive is a great way to keep your mind active and healthy. 

With summer and winter courses, you can move through classes you dread more quickly. If winter and summer break already feel short, the courses feel even shorter. A typical fall or spring semester is about 14-16 weeks long while summer and winter semesters are about 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the class!

Important to remember: Yes, the semesters are shorter, but this means it is also easier to fall behind if you miss class! If you miss 3 classes during a summer or winter session, you could be missing what is considered one fourth of the class. 

 

Taking summer or winter courses have many benefits, as described above. However, it is TOTALLY understandable if you still have doubts on taking these courses. Take this opportunity to read up on some common concerns below!

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Concern: “I don’t have the money to afford summer/winter courses!”

Solution: Yes, this would be an expense as you typically pay for every credit you take. However, strategically taking courses during your breaks increases the likelihood of an early graduation. That’s a semester or two you won’t have to pay for! If you are taking classes that you need to graduate, the investment you make in classes over the summer/winter semesters will return the favor. 

Concern: “My college is out of state. How am I supposed to take classes thousands of miles away?”

Solution: With many universities, you have the option of transferring credits from a course taken at a community college near you. Classes at community college are not only more convenient in distance, but are also a much more affordable option! Talk with your college advisor on options for transferring credits from a local college to your university. Many colleges also offer classes that are strictly offered online. Investigate more with your individual college to see if there are any online courses offered that will help bring you a step closer to graduating. 

If you have the finances, many colleges also offer the option of summer housing on their campuses, specifically for its summer students. This option may be a bit pricier, but it offers the benefits of on-campus convenience and reliability to take the classes you want to take. Take the time to research your university’s residential life policies on any offered summer housing! 

Concern: “I want to travel during my summer/winter break, not stay home!”

Solution: There are a few different solutions to this problem!

Many universities offer the option of taking online asynchronous courses, meaning there are no official meeting times for class. Instead, the material is given to you online and you either have deadlines to complete weekly, or you simply study the material by the end of the semester when you take your final exam! That way, you can study AND spend time at the vacation location of your desire.

You can also take advantage of earning credits through study abroad options. Many colleges offer summer and winter travel abroad options for students. Take advantage of the opportunity to study what you want at a foreign institution or even a campus of your own university in another location! Students in a study abroad program will typically live in a residence hall, apartment, or with a local family through a homestay program. You’ll  have the opportunity to earn credits during your summer/winter break while learning about life in another part of the world, which is a priceless experience! 

Concern: “I can’t find the class I want to take during the break”.

Solution: Plan ahead! Although the course options list is shorter during the summer and winter semesters, there are still many offered. The courses offered during winter and summer sessions are often core classes/gen ed’s, so plan to take those during your breaks so you can take your more exclusive courses during your fall and spring semesters.

The summer/winter sessions aren’t just for the classes you need to take. If you can afford it, summer and winter semesters are the perfect opportunity to explore courses you wouldn’t normally take! Interested in taking a psychology course as an engineering major? The summer and winter months are the perfect time to explore other passions. 

Concern: “I want to work in the summer/winter instead of taking classes. That way, I can build my resume up.”

Solution: There are many opportunities to take a summer or winter internship at your university. These internships can either reward your service in credits or even with pay. Either way, these internships are a perfect resume and connection builder, and you can guarantee yourself a productive summer or winter break helping you get one step closer to your dream job!

 

In conclusion, summer and winter courses offer many benefits to your education. Yes, it’s true that they can often be a pretty big expense to your finances and time. However, think of it as a life investment; its benefits will never stop giving back!

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