Summer School Guide: How to Take Classes Over the Summer

Posted on September 16 2020

Three students in a study group sit on the lawn of a school campus talking.

Summer school gives students a path to get ahead in their studies and prepare for their futures. It’s a great strategy for boosting a low grade point average, but summer courses actually offer students much more

For example, attending school during summer break is one way students can accelerate their academic progress, taking required courses or adding electives. High school students can take summer courses before applying to college, beefing up their GPAs to meet entrance requirements or taking advanced high school courses in their potential major.

Want to know how to take classes over the summer? This guide will help. 

How to Take Summer Courses

Follow this process to choose the summer course that matches your academic goals.

Set Your Goal               

First, consider why you want to take courses over the summer. Common goals include:

Improving Your Grade Point Average

If you got a low grade in a class during the regular school year, you might be able to retake the class over the summer with the goal of getting a better grade. Or, you could take a summer course you feel sure you can earn a high grade in. These strategies, if successful, can improve your grade point average. That’s important because most colleges take a careful look at GPA during a student’s application process.

Developing a Skill

You might be looking to develop a skill, such as computer programming or graphic design, to prepare for a future career or college major. If your high school doesn’t offer the course you’re looking for, you could find it through an online summer program. 

Earning College Credits

High school students can often take advantage of summer school to earn college credits. You’ll need to make sure, however, that credits for the specific courses you take over the summer can be transferred to your college of choice. 

If everything checks out in terms of availability and courses that count toward your degree, you can begin your first year of college with some credits already under your belt. This gives you the freedom to select other courses during the regular college semester that you can apply toward your college’s general education requirements or that count toward your major. This summer session strategy is a great move if required courses at your college of choice are offered infrequently, are in high demand, or tend to have long wait lists.

Saving Money

Many high schools, community colleges, and online programs offer free or affordable summer courses. You can use these resources to gain credits or expand your knowledge in a certain subject without breaking the bank. Completing college courses early can also help you save on future tuition.

Find the Right Program           

Many high schools offer summer courses — both in person and online. It’s important to find the right option for you, such as a school that’s in your community or that offers courses in your desired major.

Remote learning platforms, such as Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera, also offer many free and affordable course options. They may not be structured the same as courses offered by high schools and colleges. For example, they might consist entirely of videos instead of live classes, or they might be taught by experts in the field but not certificated instructors. It’s also important to note that these courses don’t offer high school credit that will be included on your transcript. 

If you’re looking to earn high school credit, online learning offers a number of options outside of the regular course selections offered by many high schools and colleges.

Choose Your Classes              

Choose courses that effectively target your academic and career goals. Consult a guidance counselor or college representative to learn about the options available to you.

Here are some subject areas you may want to consider for the summer session, depending on your goals:

Business Classes

If you’re interested in learning more about business administration, or in starting your own business, you could take a summer course in business foundations, entrepreneurship, or marketing. 

Technical Classes

If you’re interested in developing technical skills that your high school curriculum doesn’t cover, you could take a summer course through an online program. Examples of these technical classes are software development, information technology, and automotive engineering.

Art Classes

Perhaps you’re interested in the arts, but you couldn’t fit an art elective into your high school schedule. You could take a summer course to expand your expertise in, for example, photography, woodworking, or painting.

Determine Cost and Payment Options           

The cost of summer school programs can vary based on the provider, course type, and number of credits. Summer programs for high school credit can be covered by monthly payment options, some of which are offered at extremely reasonable rates. 

If you need financial aid, you can also research options such as grants, scholarships, and student loans. Inform yourself about the requirements and liabilities before applying for financial aid.

Build a Schedule              

Summer school calls for some careful advanced planning. To ensure you use your summer session efficiently and achieve your goals, build a schedule that takes into account the amount of time you’ll need to devote to studying and completing projects or exams. Start by outlining the following:

  • When and how often each class meets
  • How much time you’ll need each week to study and complete coursework
  • What the major projects are, if they’re already listed in the course description
  • When your study group will meet, if you have joined or started one
  • When your instructors hold office hours for students who have questions or need guidance
  • Your summer job schedule, if you plan to work 
  • Any social or personal commitments, including recreation, entertainment, or family events

With these elements laid out in front of you, you can piece together a calendar for each week or month so you can stay on track with your studies while maintaining a balanced life. If some elements are unknown or expected to change, such as social events or class projects, block out estimated time to cover them, but leave room for flexibility.

Benefits of Summer Classes

Now that you’ve read about how to take classes over the summer, it’s important to dive deeper into understanding the benefits of these classes, especially if you’re a high school student just starting out on your college career.

Key benefits of taking summer classes include:

More Time to Study

Students may find it easier to be productive over the summer because they have smaller course loads and aren’t juggling other classes or involved with after-school activities. Instead, over a summer session, they can devote time and energy to one or two courses.

Smaller Class Sizes and More Remote Options

Smaller class sizes can help students who need more individual attention and less distractions. Online courses can also increase accessibility for students with physical or emotional challenges or long commutes.

Getting a Head Start on College Courses

Students can get a head start on their college careers by taking prerequisite courses for credit over the summer. This can also help students save money on college tuition costs and even graduate earlier. Additionally, summer classes can enhance a high school student’s college application and resume, indicating a commitment to learning even when school isn’t in regular session.

Tips for Taking Summer Classes 

You might feel a bit out of the loop taking summer classes when your friends are out of school, working summer jobs, or vacationing. You might also find it takes you a little time to get used to the summer session’s accelerated pace and different schedule. 

Use these tips for surviving summer school to learn how to take classes over the summer and stay on track with your studies and social life.

Establish a Designated Study Space             

Carve out space for your studies, especially if you’re taking remote courses and working from home. Dedicating a room for studying, or even just a part of a room, such as a desk or comfy chair, makes it easier to concentrate and get work done.

Reach Out to Teachers for Help             

Online course instructors often hold virtual “open office” hours and opportunities for one-on-one conversation. If you have questions about your coursework or how to apply the material to your career, reach out to your teachers directly or set up meetings for further discussion.

Join a Study Group              

Joining a study group, or starting your own, can keep you motivated and connected with a community of fellow students. It can also help you make new friends, sharing support and ideas with them as you navigate the summer session together.

Avoid Burnout            

High school burnout is a real issue that affects many students. Staying on task is important, but so is taking some time to enjoy the summer. Allow yourself much-needed breaks and recreation so you’ll be rested and ready when the new school year starts.

Free Online Tutoring Resources               

If you’re undecided about whether to take summer courses or what to sign up for, or if you want to design your own self-directed projects, check out these online resources:

Preparing for College

Many high school students choose to prepare for college by taking summer classes for college credit. To achieve this goal, they can look into more than one option. For example, they can investigate the advantages of taking classes through the college they want to apply to as an undergraduate. Or they can look into enrolling in a summer session through a program that lets them transfer credits to their preferred college.

Students can also prepare for college by taking summer courses in SAT and ACT prep. Because many colleges require scores from standardized tests as part of their applications, it’s important for students to study for and do their best on these exams. By taking courses specifically designed for these tests, students can work to improve their test scores and be better prepared to apply for their top-choice colleges.

SAT and ACT Prep Courses

Make the Most of Your Summer 

Education doesn’t have to stop once the school year ends. Summer classes offer students valuable opportunities to boost their grade point averages, gain new skills and knowledge, and prepare for their college careers. Online learning programs make summer courses accessible to students regardless of their location, with many offering free or affordable options and self-paced curricula that students can complete on their own time.

Make the most of your summer by taking advantage of these helpful resources and get ready for future success.


Additional Resources:

CollegeVine, “Should I Take College Classes Over the Summer?”  

Forbes, “Here Are Some of the Best Online Learning Platforms Right Now”

Niche, “These Are the Benefits of Taking Community College Classes During the Summer” 

PrepScholar, “What Is Summer School? Guide for High School Students” 

Public School Review, “10 Tips for Surviving Summer School”

The Princeton Review, “14 Summer Activities to Boost Your College Application”  

Ultrasound Schools Info, “How to Stay Focused in Class During the Summer”

Verywell Family, “Reasons to Consider Summer School for Your Teen”