How to get ahead academically this summer

Want to get ahead academically this summer without getting behind financially? Check out these ideas.


When school lets out for summer, your first instinct may be to get out of the classroom. But leaving behind textbooks in favor of the beach could mean missing out on great opportunities to get ahead academically.

And while you may be concerned about the extra costs that summer academics could add to your college budget, here’s some good news: There are many ways to get ahead during the summertime without getting behind financially.

Hit the books

Summer can be a great time to knock out some of those core requirements for your degree. It’s also your chance to retake a class if you need to.

Some students choose to get ahead by taking extra classes during the summer so they can graduate early. This can be a big money saver, as tuition for summer sessions is often much lower than for a full semester. If you can get enough credits during the summer, you could potentially shave a year off of your college tuition.

Lisa Howick, Associate Director of Career and Leadership Development at Sewanee: The University of the South, highly recommends that students take the opportunity to gain credit during the summer, especially if they predict heavy workloads in an upcoming semester. “If you’re going to take the MCAT one semester, for example, you may want to lighten your course load,” she explains.

Two other affordable options Howick suggests to gain credit during the summer: going home and taking classes at a local university or taking them at a community college. These options may come with the opportunity to live at home or lower tuition. Online classes are another choice. With online coursework, you can complete classes with the added freedom of choosing your own location and schedule. Just be sure to check ahead of time that your school allows transfer credits from the institution where you want to take classes.

Think outside the classroom

If you just can’t sit in a classroom during the summer, there are other options that can expand your knowledge and even beef up your resume.

  • Certifications. Howick recommends students consider certification courses as an affordable alternative to get ahead during the summer. “Learn computer coding, or get your real estate license in a faster, accelerated time,” she says. These types of qualifications can strengthen your resume and can “give students a boost to jump into a field more easily post-graduation.”
  • Internships. Getting ahead academically during the summer isn’t only about class credits: You can also complete an internship or summer job that will help your resume stand out come graduation. Many immersive internship opportunities are paid, so you can improve your job prospects while also making money during the summer.
  • Study abroad. Taking part in a school-sponsored trip or study abroad program is another alternative to stay on top of your academics without being in the classroom. Howick’s university, for example, offers students the opportunity to travel with faculty during experiential summer programs, such as studying marine science in Belize. “These opportunities to go with faculty are so rewarding, and the academic credit is worth it,” she explains.