Surviving Accelerated Courses

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A lot of students skip summer and winter sessions in college, and I used to all the time. The classes are accelerated, with a semester’s worth of material being taught in a short time usually three weeks, but sometimes in six. Unfortunately, sometimes students have no choice and have to take one or two of these courses in order to graduate on time (which is why I’m currently taking two summer classes, otherwise I would have skipped it). This is especially difficult during the time of internet classes, with having to balance workload and course time (for tips on dealing with online classes, I previously wrote an article on the subject titled “Zooming Forward”). 

The most important thing about interterm courses is that websites like SparkNotes, GradeSaver, and LitCharts are your friend if you have a lot of reading to do. Other sites that are great but require a fee for most content are Course Hero and SuperSummary. Very few people have the time to read an entire bookeven a short onein one day, which often is required in these classes. These sites really help if you’re having a class discussion but just don’t have time to read, so at least you’ll know the key points.

If possible, only take one class, or try not to have your classes overlap (say have one course end mid July and then the next begin the next week). Again, this isn’t always possible if you’re pressed to graduate and need whatever classes you can get, but try to keep it at a minimum. Another factor I encountered was that for summer school I needed at least six units for financial aid, but it ended up costing me more overall even with financial aid, so don’t view that as a single incentive.

Try to focus on one subject at a time, if you’re given choices. For example, I was given three chapters in a history class to read, but the discussion topic (which requires basically a short paper) gave me two choices of a subject. I picked one subject and focused on that in the reading, and paid a lot less attention to the other subject. To learn more about the other topic, I read posts from my classmates who had chosen to write about it, so I still learned it, just in a much faster way that kept me from getting distracted on my post.

For the courses you’re allowed to, take them pass/no pass. My major courses have to be graded, but  for my minor, my classes can be taken ungraded, so I opted to do that. This takes some of the stress off and allows more focus on the course you really need to be working at.

For the most part, I do generally recommend summer and winter classes (especially if winter is included in fall tuition, as it is at some schools). It’s a lot of work, but you can get the class(es) out of the way quickly. It’s not for everyone, and it does take some getting used to, but once those three to six weeks speed by, it’ll be over.