Considering Summer College Courses? Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted on June 20, 2024

Posted on June 20, 2024

Summer can be a much-needed break from the rigors of college, but the summer session is a good opportunity to take courses for credit, catch up on missed courses, and accelerate your degree. 

Are you considering summer college courses? Here’s everything you need to know about summer courses, their advantages and disadvantages, and tips for success. 

What Are Summer Courses? 

Summer courses are classes offered during the summer break at colleges and universities. They may be on campus or online, but they generally compress the full course material into a shorter amount of time. 

The goal of summer courses is to help students get ahead or catch up on courses, though some programs require a summer session to meet the degree requirements. 

What Summer Courses Are Available? 

The specific courses available for a summer session depend on the college or university, but most schools offer an array of options. Typically, prerequisites and gen eds are offered for summer sessions to help students get core courses completed outside of the regular semesters. 

Learning platforms like Sophia may offer the full range of gen ed courses that you can take at any time during the year – including summer. This can help you knock out prerequisites or core courses and focus on degree-specific courses during the regular semesters or graduate early. 

Benefits of Summer Classes 

If you’re interested in summer classes, there are several advantages

Shorter Classes 

Summer courses can often be shorter than regular classes. Some may be an intense two weeks while others may be four weeks or two months. The work can be more rigorous, but it may be easier to focus on the finish line with a shorter class. 

Lower Workload 

Typically, students take only one or two summer classes at once. Having a lighter workload can make it easier to stay focused on each class and balance schoolwork with other responsibilities, including leisure time. 

Less Course Demand 

If you’re interested in a popular class that’s always full, summer is a good time to try to get in. Fewer students opt for summer classes, and your college or university may offer unique and interesting courses for the summer session that aren’t available during the regular semesters. 

Get Ahead on Gen Eds 

One of the main reasons students consider summer classes is to complete their prerequisites or gen ed courses. Taking prerequisites in the summer frees your schedule to register for the subsequent course at the best time. There’s also an advantage to getting your gen ed courses out of the way during the summer to take more advanced courses during your fall and spring semesters. 

Staying Sharp 

A long summer can be enough for students to fall “out of the groove” of school. When they return, it takes some time to readjust to classes and get on track. Summer sessions ensure continuity of learning to keep those study skills sharp. 

Getting Extra Credits 

Just one or two classes can really add up. Taking summer courses can help you accumulate credits during the off season, putting you on track to graduate early. It’s also an opportunity to catch up if you’ve had a previous setback in a course to finish your degree on time. 

Drawbacks to Summer Classes 

Summer classes can be helpful, but they’re not the right choice for everyone. Here are some drawbacks to summer courses: 

Intensive Schedules 

Shorter classes may be nice, but condensing a lot of information into a few short weeks can be extremely challenging. Some students may become overwhelmed with the breakneck pace. 


Summer is a time for vacations, outdoor fun, and social events. If you plan to take summer courses, it’s important to be disciplined with time management to ensure that your schoolwork doesn’t take a backseat to your summer activities. 

No Financial Aid 

Depending on your financial aid and your institution, financial aid may not be available for summer classes. This means you may have to pay out of pocket for your courses. 

No Break 

Getting ahead with summer classes can be a big help on the path to your degree, but that means you won’t have a typical summer break to refresh and prepare for the following year. Some students stay sharp with continuous learning, but others may need to relax and can burn out with summer courses. 

Tips for Success with Summer Classes 

Here are some tips to make the most of summer sessions: 

  • Check with your college or university to see what summer courses are available. 
  • Decide what courses you need to satisfy your prerequisites or gen eds. 
  • If you’re taking a course you failed, check that you’re allowed to retake it during the summer session. 
  • Consider alternative providers for summer courses with transfer credit, such as community colleges and online learning platforms. 
  • If you’re taking courses for transfer credit, make sure to check with the school regarding the transfer policy. 
  • Work with your advisor to determine what courses you should take to satisfy your degree requirements. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Summer Classes 

How Many Summer Classes Can I Take? 

Most students take just one or two courses over the summer session, but some schools may offer higher credit loads with multiple courses. For example, a student who is comfortable with a 15-credit load during the fall or spring semester (a full credit load) may be able to take 8 or 12 credits over summer. However, it depends on the school’s policies and what courses are available. 

With a platform like Sophia, you can take up to two courses at one time. Because they’re self-paced, Sophia courses are ideal for summer sessions and give you an opportunity to complete courses on your own time and prepare for the fall semester. 

Can I Take Summer Courses Online? 

Yes! Online summer college courses may be available at your school, or you can take courses for transfer credit through a learning platform. This can give you some flexibility to focus on your schoolwork while still enjoying your summer activities. 

While you can earn credits for summer courses taken online, it’s important to check with your advisor to make sure the credits transfer. You should also make sure that any courses you’re considering satisfy your degree requirements. 

Are Summer Classes Cheaper? 

It depends. Generally, summer classes are cheaper than courses during the fall and spring semesters. Online courses may have lower tuition rates and lower fees as well. If you take summer courses at a different institution, such as a community college or an online learning platform, it may be even cheaper. 

Can Summer Courses Accelerate My Degree? 

Summer classes are a good choice for students who are looking to fast-track their degree. Depending on what courses are available, you may be able to take a full semester worth of courses to shorten your degree track by several months. However, keep in mind that summer classes are more condensed, so they may be more challenging. 

Can I Retake a Class I Failed During the Summer? 

The summer session is a great time to retake a class you failed during the regular semester. Though the material is condensed, summer courses often have small class sizes, more interaction with the professor, and a more relaxed environment. 

However, it’s important to check that your school will allow you to retake a class you failed during the summer, either at that school or elsewhere. 

Considering Online Summer Courses? 

If taking some summer courses is the right choice for you, Sophia offers a range of self-paced online gen ed courses designed to transfer to many colleges and universities. Explore our courses and start your free trial today! 

Category: Higher Education

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