Students who are looking to get ahead don’t have to look farther than extending their school year into the summer.

You can gain so much value from a few weeks of classes, whether increasing your potential to graduate early or having the opportunity to take classes that fill up too quickly during the fall and spring semesters.

Stay On Track to Graduate (or Graduate Early!)

Summer school adds flexibility for college students to progress on their journey to graduation, helping them to stay on track. If you are already on track, you may even have the opportunity to graduate early! 

Taking classes during the summer can prevent you from falling behind. Students pursuing double majors, those who have courses with particularly challenging material, or simply a heavy course load during the fall and spring semesters could benefit from spreading their classes into the summer. This could potentially lighten the load and give you more breathing room during the rest of the year.

Transition to a New Major or Minor

Transitioning to a new major or minor often has many steps to successfully complete the process. It often involves taking introductory classes for the given major or minor and a new set of required courses you must complete before moving on to advanced classes. 

Enrolling in summer school can help you to catch up on those new requirements and prevent yourself from falling behind.

Complete Gen Ed Requirements 

Most colleges and universities require all students to complete a core curriculum, also known as general education classes. If you’re looking forward to focusing on your area of interest, summer school can be a great time to check your gen ed classes off your list. This can allow you to devote your attention—and limited time in your schedule—to the courses you’re most interested in during the fall and spring semesters.

Take Advantage of Smaller Class Sizes

Summer classes are often smaller than those during the standard school year. These classes offer more one-on-one time with the instructor, more opportunities to get to know your fellow students, and can provide a more personal atmosphere than a large lecture hall. 

Summer school is a great time to take advantage of these benefits and form new connections with your professors and classmates.

Get Into More In-Demand Classes 

The summer is one of the best times to get into more in-demand classes that fill up quickly during the fall and spring semesters. There are generally less students enrolled during the summer and that class you’ve been dying to take is more likely to be available. 

Take advantage of the reduced demand and sign up for the class that otherwise would be full in the blink of an eye. 

Stay Academically Stimulated

It can be easy to let the momentum and knowledge you gained during the school year fade during the summer months, but if you find yourself getting restless with 3 months away from school, summer school may be perfect for you. 

Summer school can keep you academically stimulated and help to maintain the habits you need to be successful. 

Read our blog—Ten Reasons Why You Should Take a College Class This Summer—for more benefits of summer school!

What Types of Classes are Offered in the Summer?

Most schools only offer a limited amount of courses during the summer. Take the time to research what is available ahead of time. Check out the summer school website for the university you’re interested in to get an idea of what to expect.

Class formats can vary, but it is likely that a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes will be offered, so choose what works best for you.

In-Person Classes

In-person classes are usually held on campus in a classroom or lecture hall setting. Some schools will require students to stay in dorms for the duration of the program to encourage a communal atmosphere and make sure day-to-day commute is simple and straightforward.

The benefits of in-person classes are face-to-face interactions with your classmates and instructors, which can help students feel more engaged and connected during the course. However, this may not be as accessible if you live far away or have a demanding schedule outside of school. 

You also have the opportunity to enjoy social activities and extracurriculars that your program may offer, such as trips and excursions and informal athletic games.

Online Classes

Online classes are often held exclusively over video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom. Quizzes, tests, and assignments are also all administered online, likely through a student portal.

The online format is more accessible to students who are unable to physically come to campus and allows for greater flexibility. It can feel less personal and lacking in connectedness to others, so take that into account when considering what suits your learning style best. Additionally, online classes often have more self-paced material, so if you struggle with setting aside your own time for pre-recorded lectures or reading, you may prefer an on-campus course.

Hybrid Classes

Hybrid classes offer a combination of in-person and online instruction. While most standard classes are held online, students may be required to come to campus for an intensive weekend, for example. For many, this can provide the best of both worlds. 

Make sure that the dates you are required to be on campus are doable for you and make travel plans as necessary. 

How Long is Summer School?

Summer classes can vary in length, depending on the intensity of the course. Harvard Summer School, for example, offers seven-week, four-week, or three-week courses. These courses follow the same curriculum as a semester-long course, but in a condensed time frame. 

The schedules for each session can vary broadly, so plan ahead by reviewing the course catalog. 

Harvard also offers summer college programs of varying duration for high school students. The non-credit Pre-College Summer School Program is two weeks long, while the college-credit Secondary School Program has a four-week residential program and a flexible seven-week program you can complete on-campus, online, or commuting from nearby.

How to Get the Most Out of Summer School

Just like the school year, summer school is about pursuing your academic goals, making connections, and most importantly, enjoying the experience! Get the most out of your experience with some of the following tips.

Plan Ahead

Make sure you stay on track by planning out your courses before you enroll. An academic advisor can give you guidance on what classes you should take and remind you of important deadlines to keep you on the path to success. They can also help ensure the course transfers so you get the college credit you need.

Work in Study Groups 

Form a study group or group chat with your fellow classmates to support each other throughout your summer. This can also help you form bonds and friendships that will last beyond when you’ve completed the class. 

Take Advantage of Academic Resources

Schools want all their students to succeed, no matter the time of year. Most programs will provide ample academic resources, such as tutoring or instructor office hours.

Harvard offers multiple opportunities students can take advantage of, such as the Harvard Summer School Writing Center and full access to the libraries.

Find Balance 

While academics are an important part of summer school, make time to have fun and participate in summer activities that you enjoy.

Harvard Summer School student Daniel said his advice would be to “eat well, sleep well, study, socialize, explore, and enjoy it: it is about the journey, not the destination!”

How Can I Register for Summer Classes? 

If you think summer school might be right for you, take the opportunity to check out your options. It’s never too early to start thinking about your next steps.