What Type of Summer Course is Right for Me?

The college summer term can offer many benefits, such as increased flexibility and course options that you might not otherwise have during the spring and fall semesters. While summer term varies from school to school, it’s key to understand what type of summer class is right for you, such as short vs. long sessions or in-person vs. online. Keep reading to identify the right type of summer class for you:

The short vs. long(er) summer course

During the fall and spring semesters, college classes typically run for the full duration of the semester—about 15 weeks. During the summer term, however, schools offer courses in a variety of lengths. Harvard University, for example, has in-person classes with sessions that range from three to seven weeks. It’s important to note that the length of the course will often influence the frequency of sessions. At Harvard University:

  • The four-credit three-week class meets four days a week for three hours per day

  • The four-credit seven-week class meets twice a week for three hours per day

  • The eight-credit seven-week class meets five days a week for three to five hours per day.

The frequency of course sessions can be a significant factor in what type of summer class is right for you. If you have other responsibilities, such as an internship, one style may fit your schedule perfectly, while another may not. While you may not always have control over the length of the summer course, it’s important to understand what it entails so you are fully prepared to tackle it.  

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The in-person vs. online summer course

Another style to examine when choosing a summer class is in-person vs. online. Everyone learns differently, and it’s important to identify which learning modalities will work best for you during the summer term.

For instance, if you have responsibilities this summer that will make an in-person class difficult or impossible to attend, online may be the best option for you. The University of Missouri markets its summer courses with the tagline, “Take Mizzou with you this summer,” illustrating the school’s willingness to host summer learning that fits your schedule. The university offers two four-week sessions, as well as a self-paced class that you can complete on your own time in anywhere from six weeks to six months.

Be honest with yourself about your summer schedule and your preferred learning style when selecting a summer course. If online courses haven't worked well for you in the past, you might prefer the in-person option. Alternately, if you think you’ll have trouble focusing in class for three hours a day several days a week, online could be the ideal fit.

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The immersive field study summer course

Summer courses can provide a unique opportunity to carry your learning across the globe. Some colleges offer immersive field courses that last anywhere from two to eight weeks, allowing students the opportunity to experience the subject firsthand in another country.

Hampshire College, for example, provides students with a variety of short field courses that individuals can enroll in during the winter and summer terms. Whatever your interest may be, from filmmaking to perfecting a foreign language, a short-term summer field course allows you to take what you would typically learn in a classroom and experience it in the real world.

The summer term may also offer unique classes that you may not find during other semesters. For instance, The University of Rhode Island offers summer field courses in marine biology. When creating your course schedule, inquire if any of your gen. ed. requirements can be substituted with a unique summer course.

[RELATED: 5 Myths (and Realities) About Study Abroad]

Summer courses can provide students with many benefits. When considering this option, it’s key to be honest with yourself about what you want to get out of your summer term and how to best make this a reality.

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