The Truth About Summer School

  As someone who spent their summers away from the city during high school, academia has never been part of my holiday plan. This year is different. Moving back home to Ottawa for four months, knowing that my job wouldn’t start until June, I thought, why not? My plan was to fill May with fast-cash babysitting ventures and to take two classes through Carleton University – one online and one at the institution. I know everyone handles academics differently, so this isn’t a ‘one shoe fits all’ model, but hopefully you can learn (at least a bit) from my mistakes. Questions to consider before diving into enrolment…. 1) Do I really need these credits for my program? I chose to take chemistry as a BREADTH requirement and a history class on the Holocaust. As a Political Science and Criminology major, both courses fell out of the realm of my normal proceedings. While I enjoyed the content, I wish I would’ve focused on classes that I needed for my degree. It’s easy to lose motivation when you have a 12-page paper on the horizon and it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a purpose to obtaining this credit in the long run. In the future, I think asking a professor to audit their course would be the right course of action—especially if I’m merely interested in learning something new. 2)  Am I committed to studying during the summer? I thought this answer was a no brainer – I grinded all year long, why not throw in a few more assignments? But as soon as I was cursed with a Saturday-morning exam and my friends were hanging out the night before, my ability to put my nose to the grindstone was somewhat compromised. Secondly, a piece of advice I should’ve followed more: Do. The. Work. If you committed to summer classes, don’t lose sight of your goals just because of warm weather and appealing patio happy hours.  3) Do I really have the time? As a free agent in May, I had no problem keeping up with the workload. But when I was suddenly swamped with two finals in the first week of my new summer job, the balance was not so fun. Juggling classes and other responsibilities is doable, but I almost spread myself too thin— this is my break after all! 4) If I’m taking courses elsewhere, am I aware of the U of T transfer credit process? Classes taken at other schools will show up as “transfer credits” on your U of T record. This means that you must obtain a passing grade and then the mark won’t be factored into your GPA. If any of you have taken credit/no credit courses, you know already that it’s tempting to try for the bare minimum of obtaining the passing 55% grade. In my experience, this doesn’t always encourage the best work, and it definitely effected my motivation! The process of getting approval to take transfer credits can be difficult and timely, but I’ll save that for a whole separate post. In parting…. Looking back, I was on track with taking classes that interested me, but I should’ve considered my strengths and weaknesses when it came to diligence, as well as balance. I’ve learned that summer school is no walk in the park, but it is worthwhile. I had the opportunity to take a month for myself- to engage in subjects that don't usually cross my path. Initially my father- a university professor himself- convinced me to take these courses, so I thought it would only be fitting to leave you with his wise words. "There will be very few points in your life, where your sole job is to learn and absorb knowledge. Never take these opportunities for granted."

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