Many colleges offer courses both online and on campus during Winter Break.

Your freshman may have received notices from their own college and others about taking a course during the winter session (also called an intersession), those weeks they’re on break in December and January. These classes are intensives, meaning they meet every day for several hours a day for three to six weeks, either in a classroom or online.

If you’re wondering if your freshman should take a course, here are factors to consider.

What’s offered The credits need to be easily transferable between colleges, which is why the choices tend to fit general education requirements, like intro to psychology, Spanish 1, statistics, American history, art history, etc., rather than higher level required courses for a specific major.

Photograph of BlitzMail terminals in Baker-Ber...
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Where to take the course Many colleges offer classes online now, so your student’s location during Winter Break doesn’t matter. Winter sessions are usually open to all students, not just those enrolled at a particular college, allowing your teen to take a class at any school. Check the colleges within a reasonable driving distance from your home if your student wants to take the course in-person.

When to sign up Now. Deadlines are between the end of November and the beginning of December, especially for visiting students. Late registration might be open until the day the class starts, but expect to pay an additional fee.

Who should take a course A student who has a longer break than all their friends. If your kid is the one who doesn’t have to be back on campus until two weeks after everyone else, a class will kill the boredom and save you from complaining that “You’re doing nothing all day.”

The freshman who failed or dropped a class or two. This is a quick way to catch up.

Anyone looking to save some money on college tuition. Classes at the local community college or public university are cheaper for in-state kids compared to those offered at private institutions. If your student hopes to graduate early or plans to do a double major, a winter session class can make their course load more manageable.

The potential transfer student. Let your teen take the opportunity to try out a class at a college they’re interested in.

The kid who always struggles with a particular subject. Concentrating on one class exclusively, whether in math, history or science, should produce better results and a celebration when the course is over in only three or four weeks.

Why skip the winter session My daughter, a college senior, said she would discourage students from taking a class over Winter Break. She’s heard friends complain the courses are too rushed or the kids were too tired after finishing up a semester. Take into account that your teenager has just finished 15 weeks of classes and a week of finals. They might need to regroup over break.

Financial aid might not be available, especially for visiting students.

When I did a random search of winter session courses at various colleges, I found a few that began the last week of December (most start in January). If your family celebrates Christmas, consider whether your student can really gear up for a class the day after the holiday.

Bottom line Talk to your student about whether there’s a good reason to take a winter session course, and then help them weigh the pros and cons carefully before making a final decision.

Share your thoughts and advice on winter session courses in the comments section below.