Many colleges limit the number of classes students can take during each term. Summer classes enable students to explore different fields, repeat courses, accelerate their graduation rate and raise their cumulative grade point average (GPA) without exceeding limitations on the number of courses taken. Succeeding in summer courses raises your overall GPA because it increases the quantity and value of scores used in the averaging calculation. If you have taken two classes and your GPA is 2.0, receiving a B (3.0) in a summer course will raise your GPA to 2.33. Keep in mind that you must get a better grade in the summer course than your current GPA for the summer course to improve your cumulative average.
Review your transcript during the winter break; after final scores are submitted, your transcript will be available through your school's student records department. Identify courses that you should repeat. Visit your school's website to view the available summer courses; all class titles may not be visible, so check the schedule for updates and contact the department of student affairs regarding your interest in summer classes.
Ask your student adviser about the policy for dropping and repeating a particular course. Certain subjects are not offered during the summer, and your school might weigh summer-course grades differently because they are condensed courses. Ask how your summer scores will be reported on your transcript -- whether repeated courses will be omitted or annotated, for example. Confirm that scores received at another educational institution can be transferred to your school.
Review your finances. Find out if your school offers summer financial aid; even if you receive financial assistance for your fall and spring terms, you might not qualify for the summer. Find a summer job to help defray the costs of class materials and room and board. Summer jobs are hard to find in college towns, so begin looking for leads early in the year to get ahead.
Find a place to stay over the summer that enables you to walk or drive to school. Keep in mind that dormitories and other on-campus housing options might be unavailable or reserved for international and graduate students. Consider taking the class online and staying with family through the break.
Obtain the paperwork necessary to enroll in a summer course at the beginning of the spring semester before mid-term break. Choose the minimum number of courses required to meet your goals; summer courses are accelerated, making them more difficult than fall/spring classes. Assume that each course will require a 15-hour time investment each week; this means if you work a full-time job and take two courses, you will be busy 14 hours each weekday -- not including travel, meals, exercise and hygienic activities.
Read the class's syllabus and note the required reading and assignments. Highlight materials you need to purchase and key due dates: dates of the first class, tests, projects, the midterm, the final class and the final exam. Purchase books at the end of the spring semester as used books are brought back to the school book store. Opt for one-day shipping if shopping online; a two-week delay could mean failure in a summer course. Compare class start and end dates with the start of fall semester; your summer finals might overlap with preparations for your new classes, so be sure to plan ahead.
Attend class and study. Join a study group or after-class review session if you are having difficulty understanding material; with fewer students on campus, there might be fewer options for study space and educational support. Be proactive: find out the summer hours for the library, get to know your professor through email, and seek off-campus support centers before you need them. Talk with your professor about getting extra help and commit to the recommended solutions.
Set goals for reading that you can meet. For example, if you have 200 pages to read in 20 days, set a goal to finish early by reading 30 pages a day, which will leave time to digest the material and ask questions. Make a daily schedule; even if you are only taking one summer class. Write down your class schedule, study hours and work hours. Leave flexible blocks of time for meals, exercise and rest. Remaining well-rested, fed and hydrated is particularly important during the summer when temperatures are high.
Retake exams, do extra credit and correct assignments as permitted by your professor. Take every opportunity to maximize your scores in class; failing summer courses can lower your GPA and affect your chances of receiving approval for other accelerated educational opportunities such as taking extra courses during the regular term and auditing classes for enrichment.
Check your GPA after final grades have been submitted, particularly if you took summer courses at a different school. Ensure that your grade is accurate on your official transcript. Talk to the office of student records and your professor regarding errors.
Sylvia Cini has written informative articles for parents and educators since 2009. Her articles appear on various websites. Cini has worked as a mentor, grief counselor, tutor, recreational leader and school volunteer coordinator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Clark University of Worcester, Massachusetts.