During the summer, a college student might expect to be hanging out on a beach somewhere, maybe reading a book, most likely sipping some fruity drinks — or at least enjoying the sun on a porch or a roof.
However, many students every year do choose to take classes in the summer. Those “summer students” take time out of their much-deserved, four-month break to dip into some academic texts, take tests, do projects and study as if school never let out.
And the benefits are clear: take a liberal learning course or two, maybe one for your major, so you can more comfortably complete your requirements in the allotted time.
According to a 2010 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, college students, especially those of low-income backgrounds, have taken an increasingly longer time to graduate. The study suggests primarily that this may be because students are “working more to meet rising college costs” and are losing essential studying time.
“What I liked most about it was that I was able to get a class out of the way,” said senior electrical engineering major Jason Boxer of a thermodynamics class he took last summer at the College. Boxer, who lamented the workload of an engineering student, claims he opted for a summer class to “lighten” his course load during the year.
So with more and more students having trouble graduating within the four-year expected timeline for a Bachelor’s degree, tacking on that extra semester has become a highly appealing option.
Other students gave their two cents on swapping a beach chair for a desk.
“I decided to take a summer class because I needed an extra class to graduate a year early,” said junior finance major Jeff Himelson. Not only did Himelson spend his time economically during the intersession, but he was able to shave a year off the four-year timeline, the value of which cannot be understated.
Director of the College’s Intersession Program Susan Hydro had similar thoughts.
“Intersession provides students with the opportunity to focus their attention and studies on one course at a time,” Hydro said. “This has been reported to be beneficial to students as they seek to meet their requirements and expand their horizons.”
Without the level of pressure students are under during a regular session, a one-class pace might be better-suited for the focused, independent learner.
“I enjoyed the autonomy of the class and enjoyed working at my own pace. Removing the structure of normal classes allowed me to finish the work early and I feel as though I absorbed more than I usually would in a regular class,” Himelson said.
But still, others might be troubled by the sheer volume and speed with which material is given during the intersession.
“The curriculum goes much faster and it’s harder to keep up,” said senior mechanical engineering major Brandon Schiff.
In fact, for some students, it may be too tight of a squeeze fitting a whole semester into just one month.
“Don’t underestimate the workload of summer classes,” said sophomore biology major Janice Kwon. “One would think two classes isn’t a lot, but having the class almost every day and not really having the whole 24 hours, there isn’t a lot of time.”
The College, however, has a solution for those worried about the time crunch: blended learning.
“Blended learning courses combine face-to-face and online instruction,” Hydro said. “Students who want to complete high-quality, TCNJ courses while living and working in their home communities will find our blended learning courses to be an ideal way for them to complete coursework during the summer and winter.”
The Blended Learning Program has been in effect at the College since 2011, and many students are pleased with the results.
“Normally in classes I can find myself getting a little distracted if I understand something but we’re spending the rest of the day on it, so that never happened in the blended learning course,” said senior computer science major Ian Jones of his experience.
So when considering an attempt at off-season academics, students should remember to weigh their options carefully.