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Should you take summer college classes?

Published April 5, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    For some college students, summer is a time for beach hangs, barbecues, and relaxation. For others, it’s a time for internships or part-time jobs. It can also be a time of year to take classes. Whether you’re an existing or recent high school graduate looking to get a head start on their college classes, or an existing college student looking for an opportunity in the year to take additional credits, many students pursue taking summer college classes.

    But how do you know if summer college classes are right for you? Let’s break down the pros and cons of taking classes during the summer so you can make an informed decision.

    The pros of taking summer classes in college

    There are many upsides to taking summer college classes. Here are a few to consider as you make this choice.

    1. Summer college classes may cost less

    Though this won’t always be the case, some schools have cheaper tuition and fees in the summer than in the academic year. In some cases, this is because they’re offering classes online and charging less because of that.

    In addition, some state schools offer out-of-state residents the ability to pay in-state tuition during the summer term.

    Yet another reason that summer college classes may cost less is some students opt to enroll in classes outside their home college or university in the summer, including at community colleges, which often charge lower tuition than four-year colleges. Community colleges are two-year schools that provide an affordable pathway to earning college credits. If you’re interested in this path, just make sure any class credits you take will transfer to your home institution.

    2. Enrolling in summer classes may help you graduate earlier

    A potential benefit of taking summer classes is they may open the possibility of graduating from college early. By taking summer classes between academic years, you may be able to amass the number of required college credit hours needed to graduate a semester or more early. This may have several benefits, including the ability to save money on a college degree and the ability to enter the workforce or graduate school earlier.

    3. Summer classes may help you make up for failed classes

    If you failed a class and can retake it either to replace your grade or average two grades, the summer session may be the time to do it. You’ll have to check in with your academic advisor to understand your school’s specific policies around the options to do this.

    4. Summer classes may help you build new skills

    You may want to take a summer class due to an interest in a particular subject. Maybe you’re eyeing a trip abroad and want to brush up on a language. Or perhaps you want to boost your competitiveness in the job market and add new skills to your resume, and there’s a class on the summer schedule to help you do that. Summer classes can be a time to take classes that you might not have time for during the academic year.

    5. Summer classes may help you double major or minor

    A potential benefit of taking summer classes is that they may open up the opportunity to double-major or minor. The summer may be a flexible window of time to squeeze in the requirements for a second major or a minor.

    6. Summer classes may offer perks like smaller class sizes

    In some instances, you may find that taking summer classes offers perks like smaller class sizes and more access to professors. If you’re a student who thrives from personalized attention, this may be a consideration to make if you’re weighing taking summer classes. If this is important to you, make sure to check with your school to find out what class sizes to expect.

    The potential cons of taking summer classes

    While there are many potential upsides to taking summer college classes, there are also a few potential downsides to consider, too.

    1. The condensed schedule of summer classes may be challenging

    Since summer classes are often shorter than fall and spring classes, you may find that you have less time to absorb material and prepare for tests and exams. For some students, this may not feel like a problem, but for others, it may feel stressful.

    2. Taking summer classes won’t allow for a true summer break

    While you can still enjoy your summer break even while taking summer classes, if you do decide to take summer classes you may end up feeling like you didn’t get to have a true chance to unwind from school.

    3. The summer term might not have as many class choices

    One potential downside of taking college classes during the summer is that there may be fewer options for course selection. If you’re considering summer classes, check with your college’s registrar’s office in advance to see if the classes you’re interested in taking will be available in the summer.

    4. Your financial aid may not help in covering summer classes

    If you’re receiving federal financial aid, you can hypothetically use this money to help pay for summer classes. There’s a nuance to this, though, that is important to understand – you won’t be eligible for more financial aid because you want to take summer classes.

    If you’re using summer classes as a path to graduate early, you may find that summer classes provide an opportunity for cost savings unto themselves. You may also have enough financial aid to cover both the academic year and summer classes. Still, make sure you go in with your eyes wide open when it comes to taking summer classes and using financial aid.

    5. Taking summer classes will provide fewer opportunities for internships

    Some students use their summer breaks as opportunities to get internships. Internships can be a great opportunity to explore fields of work that may interest you, network, and get a sense of what working may be like after college. Taking summer classes may interfere with the ability to pursue summer internships if that’s something you’re interested in.

    6. Taking summer classes may provide fewer opportunities to get part-time work

    Some students may use the summer break to get a part-time job to earn money (for tuition, living expenses, to help family members, among other reasons). It may be a challenge for students to take both summer classes and to pursue part-time work.

    Common FAQs about summer college classes

    When do summer classes start?

    Summer classes in college typically start after the spring term ends, usually in late May or early June.

    Does financial aid cover summer classes?

    While most financial aid, including federal financial aid, will cover summer classes in college, students don’t necessarily receive additional financial aid because they decide to take summer classes. So, if you’ve already used your financial aid for the school year, you won’t necessarily have additional financial aid to cover summer classes. All of that said, there may be scholarships or grants to apply to specifically to help cover summer classes.

    How many summer classes can I take?

    The number of summer classes a college student can take varies widely among institutions and is influenced by the structure of a school’s summer session. Typically, students enroll in one to three courses per summer session, with the total allowable credits ranging from three to nine or more. Institutions that offer multiple, shorter sessions may allow students to take courses in each session, potentially enabling them to complete more credits over the entire summer.

    Are summer classes harder?

    Summer college classes aren’t on the surface “harder”, but some students may find them more challenging, primarily because of the condensed timeline. Unlike traditional college terms, summer courses often compress the same amount of material into a shorter period, which may span from four to eight weeks. The intensity of this schedule may be demanding for some students.

    How long are summer classes?

    The structure of summer sessions can vary significantly between institutions. Many colleges offer different types of summer terms. For example, some colleges have one long summer session that spans almost the entire summer. In contrast, other colleges offer multiple shorter sessions split up throughout the summer. These shorter terms typically range from four to eight weeks.

    Are summer classes cheaper?

    Some schools have cheaper tuition and fees when it comes to their summer classes. This may be because they offer classes in an online format and charge less. In other instances, some state schools offer the ability for out-of-state residents to pay in-state tuition during the summer.

    Lastly, some students opt to enroll in classes outside their home college or university in the summer, including at community colleges, which may charge lower tuition than four-year colleges.

    Final thoughts

    Figuring out if summer classes are right for you will come down to analyzing your goals. Do you want to graduate early, make up for a failed class, or take a class you might not otherwise have a chance to? Or is using the summer to get work experience, make money, or simply to relax important to you? Weigh the pros and cons carefully to decide the best course for your situation.