Do you like spending your summer indoors, staring at a laptop screen and not socialising with anyone? Do you enjoy devoting hours to schoolwork while everyone else is enjoying the sun? Then sign up for summer school and sell your free time — and your soul — to get that degree!
In all seriousness, summer school can be both a taxing and rewarding experience, depending on a range of factors such as your time management skills and your individual learning style. Whether you’re still thinking of taking summer school or you’ve already enrolled, you’ve come to the right place for more info on how it typically goes!
I took summer school online and overseas in 2022 and will be taking it again in 2023 (conjoint things). The two papers I took were ENGGEN 121 and ENGSCI 111, both 1st year engineering papers, and I’ll be taking ENGSCI 211 this upcoming January while also balancing a full-time internship. As a somewhat seasoned summer school taker, I’ll provide some insights and tips on how you can still enjoy your summer while completing a course or two!
The main differences I found between summer school and a regular semester were in the pacing, workload, and test/exam studying. Summer school is incredibly fast paced: you’ll be in lectures pretty much every day, and those lectures will be 2 hours each day per class, meaning there isn’t as much time to absorb and process information. On the plus side, the shorter course runtime (6 weeks compared to the 12 of a regular semester) means there’s less time to forget everything. If you’re like me and you enjoy learning at a fast pace and staying very focused on one or two things at a time, you’re in luck — summer school may be perfect for you! If not, don’t worry — you can still be successful, even if you learn at a slower pace.
Here are some of my main tips for how to make your time in summer school a little smoother:
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Since I was overseas and dealing with timezones, I watched my lectures as soon as they came out in the evening (which ended up being around 8-10 pm my time) and then did practice problems/took notes for 3-5 hours the next morning… and repeat. I then made sure to set aside time to exercise, have fun/relax, etc. As long as I was consistent with when I watched lectures and when I did practice problems, I didn’t find it too difficult to keep up with the course content while also maintaining activities outside of summer school. The fast pace of summer school means it’s absolutely essential to stay on top of lectures and assignments, so make it a habit from the start to attend/watch lectures the same day they come out. Having a good schedule will also help you set aside free time to enjoy your summer!
2. Review as you go.
With tests and exams happening so soon after lectures finish, you’ll find little time to consolidate your knowledge between learning the content and having to demonstrate it in an assessment. That’s why it’s extremely useful to take notes, do practice problems, and review the two as you go, especially after major units. For ENGGEN 121, I did a full review of the Statics unit (the first half of the course) before starting the second half of the course. When exams rolled around, I found it much easier to review this unit thanks to the review sheet I had prepped, even though I hadn’t touched the content in 3 weeks. Trust me, future you will thank you: I found I only had a couple days I could set aside to properly review for exams, meaning that any notes I had already created in the past were extremely helpful in such a time crunch!
3. Seek help when you need it.
I probably emailed my course coordinator a dozen times during ENGGEN 121 — she was super helpful and answered all my questions and concerns (thanks Erin!). Whether you’re online or in person, I highly recommend reaching out for help if you need it, since your to your lecturer, TA, coordinator, etc won’t necessarily ask you if you need it. Even just walking up to them after the lecture can be a good start to get help if you’re struggling! I also find it really important to ask lots of questions when you’re learning at a faster pace: that way, you’ll be able to absorb and retain more information as well as find out what’s important for you to remember.
Overall, summer school can be a really rewarding experience if you can match its fast pace while making time to enjoy your summer. In the end, it’s important to avoid burning yourself out, especially since Semester One starts so soon after summer school ends, so make sure to set aside time for yourself to relax. Good luck for those of you suffering along with me this January and February!
You got this! 😉
Learn more about all UoA Summer Programmes:
Summer School (the mainstream programme)
Summer Start (like Summer School, but especially for school leavers, so there is additional support)
Toiā ki Waipapa (a preparation programme for Māori school leavers)
UniBound Summer (a preparation programme for Pacific school leavers)