Early during the spring semester, I was sitting in my adviser’s office experiencing a minor panic attack. Due to my work schedule, I had gotten behind on completing the requirements for my dual degree in finance and accounting. My goal was to graduate in four years, especially because all of my scholarships ended after this time period. Although I could finish in time for my finance degree, I was two classes short on my accounting degree.
Fortunately for me, I had the option to take the two classes during this summer.
While this is a nice way to save myself an extra semester’s worth of tuition bills, I don’t know if I can say that I am learning just as much, or as effectively, as I would have learned had I taken these classes during a traditional semester.
Summer classes, which generally last about five to eight weeks, attempt to cram all of the information that students usually learn over a four month span. This “crash course” approach is counterproductive. Students may get credit for completing the work, but the substance of the course is often rushed, condensed, and so time-intensive, it is forgotten quickly.
One of the biggest advantages of taking the same classes during the school year is that you get 18 weeks or so of repetition. An entire semester’s worth of reviewing concepts is similar to beginning to study for a test a week before you take it. In order to retain more information and learn material conceptually, it is important to spread out your learning over a longer period of time. Summer classes, however, often offer the kind of learning that you do when you start studying for a test at 3 a.m. the night before; it’s rushed, surface level, and just temporarily stored in your brain in order to regurgitate the information in the morning.
Taking summer classes isn’t always bad; if you have a good teacher and an organized, step-by-step curriculum, you may find that the intensive pace and the every day meetings actually are more effective than classes during the traditional semester.
These classes, however, are few and far between. I personally have been lucky for the most part to have very engaging teachers who have challenged us to truly absorb and retain the knowledge that we gain in their courses. I have also attended classes with teachers that do the exact opposite.
Before signing up for summer classes, you must consider whether or not you are willing to take the risk that your summer course may not be interesting, informative or really beneficial in any way, besides of course getting an easy A.
If your goal is to get the best grade possible, summer classes may be the best way to go. Take the hardest classes during the summer, endure a couple weeks of surface level instruction and come off scot-free with an A.
Or you could challenge yourself. Sure, you may not get an A in every difficult class. It may be hard to give up that easy A while also subjecting yourself to the long, arduous process that is a college semester, but you will be much better off for doing so. Not only will you have the feeling of accomplishment of keeping your grades up for an entire semester, but you will be better informed, have more practice and fully understand course material.
If you truly want to master the knowledge within your major requirements, don’t save the hardest classes for summer. Summer classes should be used to complete prerequisites, graduate on time or retake any classes that you might’ve bombed during the semester.
Challenge yourself to focus on learning, and good grades will be the side result of your efforts. Chase excellence, and success will come running to you.
Andy Rao is a senior in Finance and Accounting.