The pros and cons of summer school

By Rob Taylor

I didn't go to summer school, but I did work and live on campus during the summer and I had some friends who went to summer school, so after listening to them complain about the difficulties of summer school, as well as extol the benefits of attending school in the summer, I feel well qualified to write a nationally-read article on the subject.

I'm going to talk about voluntary summer school courses and programs in the traditional sense. These are not the courses you are forced to take or the unique and specialized programs highlighted elsewhere on the site. This is an examination of plain old going-to-campus-and-sitting-in-a-lecture-hall summer classes.

Cons

It's summer - Roughly half of geographical North America, and almost all of Canada, is enjoying the absence of snow (there's a joke about the coastal regions of BC in here somewhere, but I can't think of it). Do you really want to spend it indoors, either in lecture halls or studying indoors somewhere?

Your friends are jerks - That's right. It's time for you to acknowledge the fact that all your friends are jerks when you are going to summer school. You will realize that they are jerks when they ask you to go away for the weekend and you can't because you have to write an assignment. You will realize that they are jerks when they call you up from wherever they are to ask you if you are having as much fun as they are when it's pretty obvious that you are not.

Your boss wants to give you more money and you won't let him (or her) - Summer time means more hours for you at work (or at least the possibility of more hours at work), which means more money for you to help pay for school. Going to class means lost hours of work time. I'm always sure to give my student employees odd looks when they tell me they won't be able to work as many hours as I'd like them to work in the summer because they are going to school. Then I say “Don't you like money?”

Everything is squished together, program-wise - This is one thing that many of my friends complained about. The classes they took were full- or half-year credits, but because there are generally less days in the summer semester at most colleges and universities, the weekly and monthly workloads were doubled compared to the winter semesters. They also complained that there was less time to write essays and exam periods happened almost one on top of the other.

Pros

Air conditioning - I mentioned in the Cons that you lose potential income if you opt to go to summer school. But there's a very good chance, if you are a student, that the job you would get would involve being outside when it's freaking hot out and the sun is beating down on the back of your neck like a sledgehammer. At least inside you've got a chance at air conditioning

Student summer work is boring - Again, maybe this is not the case 100% of the time, but when you work in the summer, it generally isn't the most intellectually challenging job in the world. Plus all that studying keeps you sharp for September, when everyone else comes back all burned out and tired from their summer jobs and shenanigans.

Maybe it's cheaper in the long run - Things have calmed down a bit (in Ontario and a couple of other provinces anyway), but for a while there, tuition was going up almost every year. The amount of money I was paying for a course when I entered school was lower than the amount of money I was paying when I graduated. Getting those summer courses in means graduating sooner and perhaps avoiding those price increases.

Having a flexible schedule - I had a couple of friends who took summer school for the sake of making things easier later on. One had a situation where instead of just a summer job, he had a job during the whole year and he liked to work quite a few hours at a week. Taking a summer course or two meant that he had a lighter load throughout the year and was able to work more. Another friend had a scheduling conflict between two courses she wanted to take during the year. She was able to solve the conflict by taking one of the courses as a summer school credit. Yet another friend ended up dropping a course during the fall term and if she wanted to graduate with the rest of her class, she needed to take a summer course, which she did.

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