Let’s discuss the pros and cons of summer school for premedical students. When I mention summer school it’s not in the same framework of having failed a class and needing to retake it to move to the next grade as sometimes happens with high school.
Although, if you are in college and earned a grade of “C” or below in a required premed course then you need to seriously consider remediating the course over the summer. Medical schools frown upon students who don’t have to grades.
Yes, I Love Summer School
There are many pros to summer school that I want to bring to your attention.
For starters, if you didn’t do well in a class you can take it over the summer and not fall behind academically. This means you don’t have to worry about taking more time to graduate, double up on your science courses or dare I say reschedule your MCAT.
Do you want to have a laser focus?
Summer school allows you to focus on just one and only one class for the most part. No worries about juggling multiple classes and conflicting exam schedules.
If you’re an active premed student no more thinking about how to make your schedule work to cover all your extracurricular activities, conduct research, volunteer or even work part-time. With summer school it’s just academics and the books.
Because all of your time is devoted to your coursework you definitely want to present the best grades possible because there are no excuses otherwise.
When it comes to summer school you get to decide where you’re going to enroll. Your two options are going to be your home institution or another school of your choosing. I want you to know that medical schools will frown upon you taking premed classes at a school that’s not on the same level as your home institution.
Very important to check with your advisor and the registrar’s office to ensure that your credits from summer school will transfer over to your home institution if you need the credit to satisfy graduation requirements.
But if you’re taking summer classes just to meet the requirements for medical school then you don’t have too much to worry about because what you do shouldn’t affect your home institution’s transcript or grades.
Think Twice Before Summer School
One of the biggest cons to summer school is the pace at which the course is taught. Generally, you will be compacting a full academic year into 6-10 weeks. This means constant dedication to the material and just a few days of not being attentive to your academics could jeopardize your final grade.
Summer school is for the student who can put all distractions aside and focus on learning in a rapid-fire environment, handle exams on a weekly and/or biweekly basis, and comprehend new facts continuously. It gives an insight into the life of medical school, yet still not at the difficulty level.
How are you going to pay for summer school?
Typically, your regular financial aid package will not cover your summer school tuition or the other expenses incurred such as housing, meals, lab fees, etc. Be prepared to pay the full balance at the beginning of the summer.
I would encourage you to investigate financing options such as scholarships, relatives and lastly loans.
With the rising cost of tuition you may be tempted to take summer classes at a community college but you have to think twice about this route. If the classes you’re taking over the summer are to satisfy requirements for medical school then do not take them at the community college. Medical schools want your courses taken at a rigorous institution to show you can handle a tough medical school curriculum.
Finally, you will be attempting to complete a full academic year in 6-10 weeks, which means your time will be severely limited. Do not plan on working, volunteering, or completing research. The goal is to study, study and pass.
I completed summer school twice, and no I didn’t fail my courses. I liked the environment and as president of the premed society during the academic year I had many demands placed on my time. In addition, I was working as a sports medicine aide which had me traveling across the United States, and volunteering also cut into my study time. For me the summer was great because I had only one responsibility: study to get good grades.
I completed biology and organic chemistry at Harvard University Summer School and it was a very enlightening time. You had very smart people from across the country working together on: late night library sessions, rigorous review sessions, hectic planning for upcoming laboratory reports, etc. Since everyone came from different undergrad colleges we found that competition was nonexistent.
If the pros outweigh the cons for you then go ahead and enroll. Obviously, I was at an institution other than my own and it was great to get away from the midwest and experience more of the east coast. You are going to study a lot and it’s not because the material is harder, rather because there is more of it to be learned in a short amount of time.
I want to mention that there will be times when the books can close and you can enjoy yourself, generally the night after an exam, but be prepared to be back in the classroom the next day. It’s important to continue to do the things which you enjoy and for me that entailed staying true to my fitness routine, otherwise one can go insane if they only had their books for the summer.