Taking a Summer College Course

The who, what, where, why and how on summer college courses.

By Anne Vaccaro Brady

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter finishing up freshman year, you may think the last thing your college student wants to or should do is hit the books again. But taking a college course over the summer comes with many benefits. Read on to get more details.

Why take a summer class Students choose studying over the summer for a variety of reasons:

  • To complete a tough course when they have time to focus on it exclusively.
  • To accelerate the road to a degree, hopefully saving time and money by graduating a semester or year early.
  • To open up room in a homework heavy fall schedule.
  • To make it easier to work toward a dual major or add a minor.
  • To earn a better grade in a class already taken.
  • To stay on track to graduate on-time when transferring colleges.

What to take General Education courses transfer easiest between institutions, so students should focus on these classes when deciding what to sign up for.

Summer sessions run anywhere from 3 to 10 weeks. Intensives require students to attend class every day for a set period of time, usually three or four weeks. This option is ideal for kids who don’t want to spend their whole summer working on a course, have a job or internship starting later in the summer, or can fit in a daily class around their work schedule.

Teens who can’t make it to the classroom should consider online courses. Some classes include a weekly online meeting time, but others allow students to progress at their own pace as long as they complete the coursework by the end of the session.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere to take a summer course Students who have a reason to stay on campus—they have a job lined up there for the summer and/or have to pay rent for an apartment—should seriously consider taking a class at their own college. But it’s important to do the math before picking this option.

Most college summer courses are open to students from other institutions. Generally, community colleges offer the cheapest price per credit, followed by public universities, then private colleges.

When researching colleges near home, students must first check which ones have the course(s) they want to take during the summer session in order to compare and pick the campus that best suits their needs in terms of cost, schedule and location.

How to take a summer class If possible, students should check with their college adviser to find out which courses will transfer from another school. Transferology.com also provides this information.

Then they should search “visiting,” “transient” or “guest student” on the websites of nearby colleges for information. The results will lead to directions on how to apply and register for a class (expect a fee to complete both steps) and provide a link to the summer course catalog.

An application acceptance can take a few hours or a couple of days. (Follow up if it’s taking longer.) Once accepted, students receive instructions on how to log in to register for classes, pay for credits and access their campus email.

To prove that a prerequisite class, such as English Composition 1, was completed, guest students can usually share an unofficial copy of their current transcript, which they can download from their home college student account page.

As long as the prereqs are met, students can register on their own online or in-person, no adviser required.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWho to see for help For problems registering online, the summer session office or admissions department should be able to help.

Issues with payments can be resolved at the bursar’s office. Note that financial aid is rarely available for guest students.

Before buying course materials on campus, students should compare prices with online retailers for textbooks.

Besides the professor, coursework help is available via the college’s tutoring services, even for visiting students.

Transferring summer credits When their class wraps up, students can fill out a transcript request form, usually available online, to have their summer grades and credits sent to their home school.

Share your advice and experiences with summer college courses in the comments section below.

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