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The Mass Media

The case for winter and summer courses

So, winter break is almost upon us, and I’m sure we are all looking forward to some time off from school. Most of you will be picking up hours for old or new jobs, making sure that number in your bank account goes up just enough to get you through the spring semester. And there’s not a lot of time to do so either, since winter break is pretty short, and interrupted by various holidays. So, working as much as possible is probably the main priority for most students.

I totally understand this—I certainly do the same thing, both during winter break and summer break. But I also have taken a summer course nearly every single year, and a couple winter courses to boot. And you know what? While I have absolutely had frustrating and lackluster courses during normal semesters, I have never, ever had a bad experience with a winter or summer course. On the contrary—I’ve had a blast every time!

So, I’m here to make the case for winter and summer courses and why you should seriously consider them.

Okay, let’s get this straight. Yes, I am advocating for summer school. No, I’m not a masochist. I am someone who loves learning, though, which is why I’m here pursuing higher education. If you are not a habitual learner, some of this may not apply to you, but since you are at UMass Boston, reading this article, I’m going to assume—and hope—that you find some enjoyment in learning. With that said, let’s get into it.

The commonly bandied explanation for why students should take winter and summer courses is that it can help you graduate sooner. If you take a summer course every year while pursuing a single major, you might actually be able to knock off an entire semester from your schooling. At the least, you’ll likely be able to lighten the course load during one or more semesters, which is a huge benefit for stress management, mental health and opportunities to work more or participate in extracurriculars—all of this even more so if you add in some winter courses.

If you are enrolled in a minor as well as your major, enrolling in summer and winter sessions can give you a serious speed boost. Not that graduating is a race, of course, but as someone who spent a lot of his post-high school time unsure about what he wanted his future to look like, I can totally understand wanting to finish as soon as possible. However, this isn’t the main reason I love winter and summer courses. No, my main reason might seem a little crazy, but it’s true—I really, truly love taking them!

Why? Well, firstly, I generally try to take electives during this time, as opposed to my major requirements. While major requirement courses can indeed be fascinating, I’m sure that most of us will admit that electives are generally more fun. Because I love learning, taking a cool, interesting elective in a subject that corresponds to one of my hobbies—for example, archaeology, music or history—actually makes my winter or summer break more enjoyable.

Second, it allows me to exercise my mind in a meaningful and structured way. I have pretty severe ADHD—evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this the night before articles are due—and so self-motivation can be tough for me. I’m not very good at taking time to practice guitar, or develop my flintknapping skills or plan hiking trips. So, having a single, enjoyable course that I am required to complete in order to get a grade really helps to keep my mind sharp.

And take heed—I say ‘single’ course, because I only take one, single course during these winter and summer sessions. This is what I’d recommend to anyone who isn’t totally consumed with completing their degree in as little time as possible. A single course is a good way to stay mentally active, have some fun learning and still have enough time to work and relax. Plus, they’re accelerated courses, so it’s beneficial to be able to focus on a single course due to the more rapid pace of information.

These courses are also a perfect time to experiment with new subjects. If you are considering switching majors, pick up a summer course as an elective in your subject of interest. If you find it interesting, you’ll already have a potential major requirement under your belt; if not, you’ll still have fulfilled an elective. If you are considering adding a minor to your degree, you can do the same thing!

Again, I know it may seem like pulling teeth for many of you to do ‘summer school.’ But if you start with a fun elective, I can almost guarantee you will enjoy the experience. Like I said, I have never had a bad experience during a summer or winter session, and have very much enjoyed the courses as a rule. Don’t be afraid to give it a try!

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor