Fun in the Sun: Summer with a Dash of Homework

Debating summer school? Ask your wallet what it thinks.

By Nicole Fryer, University of Pittsburgh


If you’re anything like me, you’re dreading the mid-semester advising appointments to schedule your next set of classes.

I decided to brave the storm and went last week before our school’s advising week started (which, 10/10 would recommend if your school will allow for you to do so), and the advisor mentioned something I had never considered before—summer classes.

I came into my school as a transfer student, so my credits have always been a little messed up (some classes transferred fully, some only transferred partially), and I have never had a decent advisor that would sit down and go over all my options with me. I declared my major last semester, so I’ve only dealt with one of the three English advisors, and I disliked him immensely.

The (Financial) Case for Taking Summer Classes

Image via Cambridge Abbey

I was leery about scheduling with one of the other advisors in the department, because I’ve gotten mixed feedback from friends and roommates, but I’m so glad I decided to go with the one I did. She sat me down and went over every class I’ve taken and which classes I still needed. She wrote them down on a sheet of paper so I could plan the next semester out without any difficulty, so I could see where I am credit-wise.

Most of my college career, I’ve been taking the minimum amount of credits because I work so much. I always make sure I take the classes I need and turns out, I only need twenty-seven credits to complete my major, but I need thirty-five more credits to obtain my one hundred-twenty to graduate. Being that I’m going into my senior year, the number scared me. Having some extra credits left means I would need to take at least six classes each semester, and the most I’ve ever taken was five, which sucked. My advisor suggested I take a few summer classes, so I wouldn’t be bombarded my final year.

At first, I didn’t like the idea at all. Summer has always been a time for me to chill, go on vacation, hang out with friends and work my ass off (last summer I worked an average of seventy hours each week), so I can afford to cut back my hours during the school year. But, the more I thought about it, the more taking some extra classes made sense. Sure, I’d have to stick out a little extra money, and I would need to cut my summer hours, but I wouldn’t have to stress as much.

Summer classes in my school go for six weeks at a time, and go for three hours twice a week. If I take two classes, six credits total, in the first six-week period, I can still go on my planned vacations without having to worry about taking schoolwork with me. Seriously, I don’t want to spend my twenty-first birthday in Vegas completely sober because I have homework due or exams to study for. Plus, if I take the two classes, my credits needed to graduate will go down to twenty-nine, which equals about five classes each semester, which is manageable (still sucks, but it’s better than the six classes).

Are you in a similar situation? Are you wondering if summer classes are for you? Sure, I’m still not thrilled about the idea, as I doubt anyone is, but I think they’re worth considering.

I started looking at some of the class offerings, and I’m finding many of the gen-eds I still need to take are being offered online, which means I wouldn’t have to cut down my availability at work. I was homeschooled most of my life, so online classes aren’t anything new to me; honestly, I prefer them to normal lectures.

The classes that would count toward my major aren’t offered online, but they are offered early in the morning, or late in the evening, and they’re only twice a week, so I wouldn’t have to change my availability at work too much.

Plus, if I decide to go home or make a last-minute weekend trip, classes won’t get in my way. Score.

Still need a little more convincing? Consider your options.

If summer classes will help you avoid taking an extra semester, they’re totally worth taking. If you enroll part-time, most universities will charge you part-time, which are by credit hours, rather than charging a flat-rate tuition. You’ll have to check with financial aid and billing to see how much your university charges per credit hour, but I know my old college charged me five hundred dollars per credit hour, so if my current university charges similarly, I’ll be dishing out around three grand for my six credits.

If I stayed for another semester, I’d be paying around nine grand, plus I would need to find short-term housing or a place to sublet. So, by taking summer classes, I’ll be saving myself around six grand. Sure, dishing out three grand sucks, but there’s a lot I could buy or pay off with an extra six grand in my pocket. Plus, if you can’t afford to dish out the money, see if financial aid can cover the costs or work out a payment plan.

If you live in a dorm, or don’t have access to being on campus or renting an apartment, you still may be able to take some summer classes, so don’t worry. Many schools will offer transfer credits from community colleges, so see if your local college offers summer classes.

Even if you are living close to campus, community colleges are generally cheaper and might be your better option. Just make sure you check with your university first and check with the community college to make sure the classes you’ll be taking transfer as full credits and without any issues. The worst thing is wasting both your time and your money to find out that your university will only accept the classes as a partial credit, or won’t accept them at all.

A little food for thought: Even if you don’t need to take any summer classes to graduate on time, they still may be beneficial to consider. Depending on how your credits fall and how many credits you take over the summer, you may be able to graduate early. And who wouldn’t want that?