Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

The grass is greener, the days are longer, and the weather is hotter. As the students of East High School would say: “It’s summer time!” As I scroll through my Facebook news feed, it seems all my friends are at the beach, jet setting to exotic parts of the world, and… taking summer classes? If you had that same double-take, then you know how I felt when I first found out one of my friends was enrolled in a summer class at the local community college. Why would anyone want to spend their summer in a classroom, especially right after graduating from high school?

Well, it turns out that there are a quite a few reasons why someone would want to take summer classes. The first reason is probably the most common: taking summer classes can help knock out some of those general education requirements once college starts in the fall. For students going to a state university in a state where the funds for education are low and the number of students is large, this is really important. I have friends who have had to spend extra years beyond the normal four years in order to graduate, because everyone is trying to get into the same general education courses, making it seem like a fight to the death to enroll in the courses they need to graduate. In addition, depending on your college in the fall, your grade in your summer course may not be factored into your GPA. This can be extremely beneficial, especially if you know you would struggle in a given general education course. However, if you do decide to take summer classes, make sure to check with your college in the fall to see if the course you take in the summer will count towards your general education requirements and your GPA.

On the flip side, summer courses can also be used to brush up on a subject, rather than knocking out a general education requirement. One of my friends is taking a chemistry course over the summer in order to prepare herself for college, since she’s going to be on the pre-med track in college. Using these courses to give yourself a refresher on a subject (or subjects) is extremely helpful. If you took a class in sophomore year, how much do you really remember on that subject? Also, by taking a summer course, you’re giving yourself a taste of what a college course is really like. You’re no longer being checked up on by your teacher; your education is officially in your own hands.

Another reason that I had never considered was networking. By taking a summer class, you’re able to meet all kinds of people before heading off for college in the fall. Networking isn’t really something that high school students think about, because their world is usually confined to the students of their high school. However, going into college, everyone you meet is an opportunity to network and make a new connection. You never know how that one person you met during your summer class might be able to help you out in the future.

Although my friend seemed enthusiastic about taking summer courses, she mentioned that there were several drawbacks to being in a summer class. “Hanging out with friends becomes more of a hassle, because you have to schedule it around your classes. You also don’t have as much freedom with your sleep schedule. I can’t stay up late watching my TV shows if I have class the next morning,” says Karen Phan, my UC Berkeley-bound friend, “and I have to look presentable more often than I would like.” It’s true that summer classes make your summer a lot more difficult. After all, you are taking on a huge responsibility, which includes showing up to class, studying for quizzes, and turning in your homework on time. This will undoubtedly affect your free time, so make sure you take this into account!

In addition, taking a summer class means that you won’t be able to travel over the summer. A lot of my friends have been traveling all over the globe (every time I see a vacation post on my news feed, I’m more inclined to scroll by more quickly out of jealousy), so if you’re one of those people who like to travel, summer classes may not be the best for you. In addition, some of my friends have taken the summer to visit relatives that live in other states. As a student, summer is prime time to spend time with your family. If you do choose to take a summer class, then there will definitely be a sacrifice involved in the decision.

So… summer courses: yay or nay? Personally, my answer would have been nay, but after talking to Karen, I’m having second thoughts. When I asked her yay or nay, she said, “People should! I wish I took more than one.” I guess the answer is yay and nay. I know this is the worst way to answer a question (it’s like ending a horror story with “…and then, she woke up from her dream”), but it’s true. Do you want a head start in college or do you want to spend more time with your friends before you head out on the next journey of your life? It seems like we’ve made enough tough decisions over the past few months, but I guess here’s another one. Whether you choose to take summer courses or to spend your summer working and hanging out, make sure you take advantage of this time. It’s the summer after high school, and that opportunity only happens once!

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the author

Benjamin Din is a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where he is studying journalism and the mathematical methods in the social sciences (what does that even mean?). When he's not writing for The Prospect, he can be found on Twitter as he tries to build his social media presence. For more information, check out his website.

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  1. Aino Ketonen on July 31, 2014

    I took one and audited one. It was a lot of fun and I feel like my summer was well-spent. Definitely do it if you’re just going to laze around in the house all summer or have nothing better to do. Especially do it if you can afford it.

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