A Rising Sophomore’s Guide to Whether or Not You Should Take Summer Courses at Cal

So, you’re considering taking advantage of UC Berkeley’s numerous summer courses? I had that same thought at the beginning of my second semester. I said to myself, “ya know what? Getting ahead this summer seems like the perfect use of my time!”

When you’re hired as a campus ambassador, you’re required to work the first summer following your employment, which meant I would have to be up in Berkeley anyways, so why not take advantage of it, right? But I will admit, coming into summer courses I was severely under-prepared for what I had signed up for.

The first thing to note is that these classes aren’t any easier than what you would take during the semester. If anything they’re more difficult considering the faster pace. These classes range from 6 to 8 weeks, which may not seem short, but it’s noticeable when you have to read and analyze at least one article every day to stay on schedule.

Another aspect to consider is when the class meets. This summer, I took two separate courses. The first class I took was a public speaking class that met once a week with the majority of the work being independent study. This was ideal for me, I never found myself to be overwhelmed or bored because the content was distributed evenly across each week. The same cannot be said the class I’m currently in. This art history class meets 4 days a week for 2 hours every day, with at least an hour’s worth of homework on top of that. Which is a lot more than I was expecting it to be. Looking back, I probably should’ve chosen a different class because the heavy condensed workload is exhausting, and I find it hard to stay focused as I get my assignments done.

Which leads me into my third point, make sure you have the self control to stay motivated and productive through the summer. This is my first time taking summer classes, and clearly I underestimated the importance of the 3 month summer break that I need away from school.

To be honest, not everyone needs to take summer courses. As a double major myself, I can see how taking on extra classes over the summer is beneficial as you’re pressed for time to graduate in only four years with essentially twice as much work as a single major would have. Because of the classes I took this summer, I’m on track t graduate on time without having to overload a semester to squeeze in those extra requirements, and now I even have the possibility of graduating early if I were to plan out my next 3 years accordingly.

Another thing to take into consideration is the cost. Berkeley’s courses aren’t free. I am lucky enough to receive financial aid, and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a huge factor in my decision to take on these classes. If I didn’t get aid from the school I can’t say that I would’ve gone through with it, which doesn’t mean the classes aren’t worth it (they definitely are) it just means that financially it wouldn’t have been the smartest decision for me. Of course, I can’t speak for you, and no one’s situation is going to look exactly like mine, it’s just another factor to take into consideration when making this decision.

So the big question, should you take summer courses? First ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I need this to graduate on time?
  2. Am I prepared to give up a portion of my summer to dedicate to my studies?
  3. Are these classes going to be worth the time and effort I pour into them at whatever point in my education I am currently at?

If you answered yes to all three of those question, then summer classes might just be for you.

Were the classes I took this summer worth it? Absolutely yes. Will I ever take another summer course as long as I have the option? Absolutely not. While I learned so much from the classes I took and I am proud of myself for succeeding in them despite the hurdles I came across, I now know that summer courses just aren’t for me, and that’s totally ok. This plan doesn’t work out for everyone, and honestly there’s no harm in just going for it.

If you’re unsure on what to do, talk to your academic advisor or look at all the requirements for the major you’re interested in and see how long it’ll take to complete all of them.

In the end, I’m glad I enrolled in these classes. A Berkeley education is unmatched, and I’m grateful that I got an extra semester squeezed into my time here, even though next summer I don’t plan on writing any academic papers if I don’t have to.

Bridget Bernet

Author: Bridget Bernet

Howdy! My name is Bridget, I am a freshman here at UC Berkeley, intended to double major in philosophy and rhetoric. I love all forms of writing, which is why I decided to write for Bear Talk :) and I'm so excited to share my perspective on this amazing campus. I've only been here for one full semester so far, and I already know this place is my home. From cheering on the sports teams to studying in Moses Hall, every moment here is a special one, and I plan on documenting it all. Go Bears!