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Are summer courses worth taking?

Photo by Tina Wallace

Summer should be time to focus on learning outside a classroom

Jesse Colautti | Opinions Editor

There’s nothing wrong with studying during the summer, but those who do are limiting themselves from a wealth of work and life experiences that might benefit them more in the future.

With the value of undergraduate degrees shrinking each year, it has become more important for students to make connections outside of the classroom. That’s why co-op programs are so popular in the first place; both educators and employers have acknowledged that students with practical experience have an edge on those with just grades.

Taking classes part-time during the summer limits your options for jobs in Ottawa, and also limits the amount of commitment you’re going to be able to give to your work. Students who choose to study during the summer are isolating themselves from work opportunities that could mean a great deal to their future.

But beyond just limiting work opportunities, students are losing out on a wealth of life experiences that are only available away from the physical and mental demands of university.

I’ve spent the past two summers working in the Young Canada Works program, travelling to jobs across Canada for free and experiencing unique, local culture firsthand. This program enabled me to do two cross country road trips, in which I swam in glacier-fed lakes, interacted with grizzly bears, climbed up the mountains of Banff and Jasper, and feasted my eyes on the wide expanse of the Canadian prairies.

I’ll retell these experiences to my grand-children one day, or to anyone that listens, because they changed my life. I never would have been able to experience them if I had studied during the summer.

A favourite professor of mine once told me his biggest regret was not enjoying life more when he was in school. He told me that when you’re in university you can become obsessed with the idea of getting through it as quickly as possible in order to start your “real” life, but the truth is that your time in university is the peak of your life. After all, you’ll never be as young as you are today.

I’m not saying a good life isn’t possible in Ottawa, or within the walls of the University of Ottawa, but I think life is enriched through as many different perspectives and experiences you can stuff within it.

Sometimes all it takes is four months away from the rest of your life to realize that.

Summer courses are quick, painless, and easy to balance with work

Justin Dallaire | Staff Contributor

It’s true that summer courses are not fun. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth taking.

Like many students, I would have probably never taken a summer course had it not been for the co-op program.  Although it’s something many of us consider at some point during university, knowing you will voluntarily be prolonging the trials of academic life can be a tough pill to swallow, especially with the prospect of working and making some much-needed cash.

What my experience taught me, however, is that many of the horror stories I had heard were exaggerated. Summer classes are really not as bad as people make them out to be.

For the most part, the courses are short and sweet. The term is divided into two sub-sessions, so most courses are completed, exam and all, within a month and a half. Trust me when I say that at that pace, you’ve finished the class and earned three credits before ever having a chance to get bored with the material.

Although some courses run the full summer term, all students have finished writing exams by August 1. That leaves you with a full month to pick up extra hours at work, take a vacation, or do absolutely nothing. And you have the satisfaction of knowing you had a productive summer.

Understandably, many worry about the workload that these condensed courses involve. But there’s really no need to fret: Most profs are either in vacation mode and feeling extra generous, or are reluctant to hand out assignments they’ll later need to correct. Either way, you win.

Despite these benefits, many students decide against taking summer courses because of work. The great thing about the structure of these courses though, is that it’s more than possible to juggle both.

The university acknowledges that many students want to work either full- or part-time during the summer, so courses are scheduled in three-hour blocks that make them easy to attend. Although heading to class after a long day at work is often difficult, it’s a short-term commitment that pays off in the long run.

Taking even just one course in the summer really frees up your time during the regular academic year. This is ideal for busy students who want to work part-time throughout the year or participate in other extracurricular activities they might not otherwise have time for. Don’t think of summer courses as a burden, but rather an investment.

Nevertheless, you’re probably thinking that none of this matters. It’s not the schedule, the workload, or the money that bothers you, it’s the thought of knowing you’ll be in class during some of the nicest days of the year. Right?

What you’ll quickly discover is that going to class is much easier when it’s nice out. Not only are you motivated by the promise of classroom air conditioning and post-class patio drinking, but you no longer worry about getting frostbite while walking to school.

So bite the bullet and take a course this summer. You’ll only truly realize how painless it can be once you try it for yourself.