It can often be beneficial to collect advice on overcoming challenges from those who have encountered similar issues before. In this post, some of us here at the Cengage Learning Blog share our memories of taking summer courses, and reflect on the challenges we faced and how we kept ourselves motivated despite distractions.

We’re sharing what we learned about taking summer courses, but what did you learn the first time you taught a summer course that you’d like to share? Start the conversation below.

I attended school at Northeastern University, which is well known for having a cooperative education program. The program allows students to gain real-world knowledge in the field via an internship. Because of this, many students attend school during the summer months. My last year in school I wanted to graduate early, therefore I took four classes during the summer months, while working my full-time job. The distractions were rampant, especially because I went to school in the heart of the Boston. The beaches and Fenway Park were calling my name each day, but instead I felt stuck in a hot, dark classroom. It was hard to convince myself to attend class, let alone complete any homework. We had one week off during the summer semester, and that felt like the quickest week of my life. I counted down the days and often looked at my planner to see when I would be free from school.

Staying on course and motivated during the entire summer semester was a challenge. It was even more difficult because once I finished those four courses I was officially done with college. The most important tactic I employed was planning my time accordingly. That summer there was absolutely no time to waste, so I had to be very organized and my planner was my best friend. I made sure that I scheduled all early classes so that I would get up and start my day, which added a couple of hours to my daily life.

Also, make sure to still have fun during the summer months. I tried to always be on top of my classwork, so that if someone invited me out to the beach I wouldn’t have to say no. I always carried my textbooks and a highlighter around with me to get ahead on class reading. Additionally, I tried to do as much work as possible outside in the nice weather. Writing a paper or reading your class text doesn’t seem quite so bad when you’re outside basking in the sunlight!

— Lindsy Lettre is a marketing assistant for Cengage Learning’s Marketing Programs group, and is based out of Boston, Massachusetts. She is new to higher education publishing, having recently graduated with her B.A. in communication studies from Northeastern University. 

Like Lindsy, I chose to complete during a summer term the last two courses I needed in order to graduate. Although looking back years later, I’m sure I was more dramatic about it than need be, I would say I was feeling a mix of two summer-school symptoms. First, I wanted to be enjoying my summer like everyone else (at least at this time no one was sharing Facebook and Twitter pics of their trips to the beach — that would have made it tougher!), and second, all of my friends had gone back home for the summer and it felt a bit lonely on campus — feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help me get motivated!So what did? I kept in mind that these last two courses weren’t any different as far as my overall success in college went, and that in order to keep up my GPA and not let myself down, I needed to be just as serious about them as I would be about any of the courses I’d taken. I was, after all, going to be seeking my first “real job” shortly. What better reason to stay serious about my academic goals? I also made up my mind to make the best of it. It wasn’t as if anyone was forcing me to be there — I made the choice to enroll in those particular courses when I did. When I went into class with that attitude and participated, it honestly made all the difference.

— Heather Mooney is a managing editor of the Cengage Learning Blog, and is based in Mason, Ohio – just north of Cincinnati. She has been working in higher education publishing for more than five years, prior to which she worked for a local newspaper group. Heather received her bachelor of science degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

I never attended summer courses during my undergraduate years; I enjoyed school and studied hard, but I didn’t want the pressure of learning an entire term’s worth of content within a condensed period of time. Besides, even though I had a part-time job, I was still used to the K-12 rhythm of “summers off,” and the idea of sitting in a classroom after studying intensely for the stretch of January through June held very little appeal.

Ten or so years later, I enrolled in a Masters of Library and Information Science program while working full time. Like many students (graduate or undergraduate), I had hoped that taking a summer course would shorten the overall amount of time I’d need to spend in school. At that point in my matriculation, I hadn’t yet completed my prerequisite courses. I knew that I didn’t want to take one of those intense prereqs in a condensed format, and most of the other available courses required completion of that sequence. Fortunately, the option of a practical and enjoyable-sounding Interpersonal Communication class had no prereqs and was still open. I recognized that such a course could apply to my current job and count toward my credit hours. In addition to the online coursework, four days of on-campus class sessions were required, which seemed like a great opportunity within a primarily online program.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience, and fully engaged in the learning process. The content was ideal for a summer course: weighty enough to matter in daily life, yet lighthearted enough that I never felt burdened by the coursework. The interactive and social aspect of the class made it fun — after all, it was Interpersonal Communication! Plus, I met a number of people who were nearing the end of the program; their advice and support helped me know what to expect out of the most grueling courses I’d face. Given that I’d taken vacation time to drive down to the school and attend the class sessions, it really did feel like “time off.” And, as it turned out, that class was my last opportunity to take a hybrid course — not long afterward, the program went 100% online.

On the down side, I didn’t really save much time overall. If I’d simply taken two courses each term without that summer course, I still would have graduated at the same time. Even so: given all that I learned, and the chances I had to meet and interact with fellow students in person, I have no regrets. It reinforced my basic belief that you should take any and all educational opportunities where you can, because you never know if you’ll have that same choice again.

— Tami Strang is a managing editor of the Cengage Learning Blog. Tami has worked for the organization for over sixteen years, and is based in Cengage Learning’s offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Masters of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University.