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Are Summer Courses Worth It?

By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.

Are summer courses worth it? I’m asked this question a lot by college students and graduate students, and the answer depends on many factors including goals, money and time. 

For most college and graduate-level students, taking summer courses has far more pros than cons. Below, I address some of the reasons why taking summer courses can be beneficial for students looking to get ahead, save money, save time, or challenge themselves.

Are Summer Courses Worth It? 7 Reasons The Answer Might Be Yes.

Summer courses are not for everybody (more on that in a later section). Below, I share 7 benefits of taking classes over the summer, and if any of those benefits resonate with you, then you might want to consider adding a class or two to your summer schedule.

1. Save Money

College tuition has never been more expensive than it is today. Taking summer courses can help lower the cost of college, even if just by a small amount. 

Saving money by taking summer courses doesn’t work the way you might think it does, as summer courses aren’t necessarily cheaper than school-year courses. But many colleges and universities will accept credits from other colleges and universities, and if you take a summer course at a less expensive school, you could save several thousand dollars over a typical four-year college experience.

The key to this strategy is to check with your college to make sure they accept credits from the school you are hoping to take summer classes at.

Another way that taking summer courses can save you money is through graduating early. More on that in the tip below.

2. Graduate Early

Taking summer courses can be worth it for students who want to graduate early. 

I personally do not recommend graduating early to most students, as I’m a firm believer that the college experience is not just about what you learn in the classroom. The experience is about so much more than that and I wouldn’t want a student to unnecessarily graduate early because they could miss out on life experiences and growth.

That said, taking some courses can enable students to graduate a semester or year ahead of time, which in the end can save money on tuition. Primarily, graduating early saves money on room and board.

When you take courses over the summer, you can apply those credits toward your graduation requirements. You have to check with your college or university and do the math, but it would be possible to graduate one semester early by taking one or two courses each year. 

For point of reference, Boston College currently charges around $16,000 a year for room and board. If you graduated one semester early, you could save $8000. 

3. Focus on Harder Courses

Taking summer courses can be worth it for students who have to complete particularly challenging courses for their program of study.

For example, if you’re a chemistry major and you know that organic chemistry is going to be your hardest course, consider taking that class over the summer so you can put all your time and attention into that one course. Taking organic chemistry at the same time you’re taking four other classes will make organic chemistry so much harder.

(If your hard class isn’t available over the summer and you have to take it during the school year, use these 10 tips for taking hard classes.)

4. Earn a Double Major

Students pursuing a double major might find it beneficial to take courses over the summer. I personally double majored in English and Spanish and was able to do so because I took two courses over the summer. If I hadn’t taken those courses over the summer, I would have had to take extra courses during the school year, which would’ve been impossible because I was writing a senior thesis.

Double majoring is not necessary, but it makes sense for some students. Here’s my best FAQ resource explaining college majors and minors.

5. Make Room for a More Relaxed School Year Schedule

Taking even just one summer course in your entire four-year college experience can alleviate your school year schedule.

So much of what makes college challenging for some students is balancing the fragmented nature of courses at different times on different days during the week. You can relieve some of this pressure with summer courses, which would free up time during your academic year to focus on one less class. 

6. Benefit from Online and Asynchronous Structure

Many colleges offer summer courses entirely online. If this is a format that appeals to you, then it’s reason enough to take a summer course.

Online summer courses are often asynchronous, which means you can complete the work at your own pace, which is helpful for students with summer jobs and summer internships. (If you’re in graduate school and have a family, asynchronous online courses are key.) online

7. Build Your Résumé

It could be worth it to take a summer course if the course enhances your skill set or for the industry hoping to get a job in.

A university near where you live may offer a course over the summer that complements your current course list or could put you at an advantage when applying for jobs in the future. In this case, a summer course is likely worth it.

When building your student résumé, add the summer course to a separate section titled “additional experience” or “additional education.”

When Are Summer Courses Not Worth It?

Any experience that enriches your knowledge, skills or connections is an experience worth having. And truthfully, summer courses enrich all three.

With that said, summer courses are not for everybody, Below are some reasons you may not be the best candidate for a summer course:

  • Your summer schedule is busy and you would have to miss more than one class.
  • The summer course would prevent you from participating in another experience that has the potential to be more beneficial, such as an internship or travel opportunity.
  • You’re not fully committed to your plan of study (major or minor).

Final Notes About Whether Summer Courses Are Worth It

Summer courses are worth it for many students across a variety of scenarios. If any of the above scenarios appeal to you, even just one, I argue it’s worth it to take a course over the summer.

There’ll be a point in your life when it’s not feasible to take summer courses, even if there’s one in your hometown that would be helpful for your career or personal enrichment. You may have a full-time job, a family, and other obligations that consume your time. In other words, it’s a much simpler process to take a summer course when you’re already a matriculated college student.

Here are my additional resources about taking summer courses, which I think you will find helpful:

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