Considering Summer School? How Many Credit Hours Should You Take?

For some college students, wrapping up your studies in four years can be a challenge. Enter summer school. You may decide to take this route to complete your education because you changed majors and need to catch up on course work; maybe you need to retake a class you did badly in.

Whatever your reason for considering summer school, you also need to be realistic about the number of credit hours you sign up for. Here’s why:

The four-year college myth

The Chronicle of Higher Education referenced a report by the Complete College America group, published in 2014, the “Four-Year Myth,” that suggests we all may need to rethink the timeframe associated with a college education. The report shared what many higher education experts have been arguing in recent years—that completing college in four years is no longer a realistic time frame for many college students. The idea of being done with college in four years is especially unrealistic for those attending community college, because they are often not attending school full time. What’s more, many colleges have increased the number of credit hours that college students are required to take to graduate. This increase means that students can’t even hope to finish in four years without overloading their class schedule or including summer school.

The recommended number of credit hours

How many credit hours should you be taking a semester, then? Most experts will tell college students to stick with 12 to 15 hours of coursework during a regular semester, especially your first year. Why? First of all, your class schedule in college is going to demand more time and attention than it did in high school. Your high school classes probably lasted about an hour; a college class will last longer, I know I had some that went on for three hours.

Second, your college credit hours are going to be harder, especially when it comes to certain classes, than anything you encountered in high school. Now what does this all mean for summer school? Summer school sessions are even more compressed than a typical semester—basically they take the same workload that would be spread out over 12 weeks and cram it into half that time. If you fall behind during summer school, it is even more challenging to catch up. My best advice is don’t take more than 6 or 7 credit hours per summer school session. Odds are your school will have some sort of limit in place anyway.

Why too heavy a class schedule is bad

Not convinced yet that overdoing the credit hours during summer school is a mistake? Summertime is supposed to give college students an opportunity to rest their brains and enjoy some experiences outside of the classroom. But I understand that not everyone’s timeline for graduation allows that.

If you must do summer school, you don’t want to burn out. This could lead you to doing badly in the upcoming fall semester and undo any good you had hoped to accomplish with those summer credit hours. Packing in too many classes can stress you out to the point where you become ill. It also doesn’t leave you any time to have fun. Be sure that your summer school schedule doesn’t overwhelm you or take away all opportunities for relaxation.

That being said, there are some advantages to a summer school class. For instance, you may receive more personalized attention from the professor because the class size is smaller. Also, since you are taking fewer courses overall, you should find it easier to concentrate on the summer school classes you are enrolled in.

Have you ever felt overloaded with credit hours in summer school? Let us know in the comments.

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