Five Talking Tips for Summer School

Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 1 comment

Can't you see yourself with your textbook on this chair? I can!

(I’m setting aside Word. Wednesday for a bit because just because we start summer school in the Pacific Northwest practically on July 4th–just kidding–others around the country are starting now. So, I thought it might be timely to revisit this post from last year when my blog was only two months old! I’ve retooled and condensed it since I’ve learned about brevity since then. Yes, it was even longer than this. Okay, stop laughing and start getting the tips…).

Many students have a love-hate relationship with summer school. They want to rack up the additional credits, but they also would rather be taking a much needed brain break. So as you shuffle to class in your Hawaiian shirt and shorts (hopefully not mixed prints, or is that now okay?), what I, of course, wish for you is that you continue to use your communication skills to up your success capital in your summer term. Here’s how:

-Talk to your professor on the first day!
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know I’m all about “early” when it comes to talking to your profs about goals or getting help. The pace of summer school means that you have not one second to waste. If you need an A, or any other grade, in that summer school class, see the prof before the first class, after the first class, or walk with him/her out to the parking lot if you have to (but no stalking!).

Say, “I am looking to earn at least a B in this class, and hopefully an A. Do you have some advice? Will you review work early?”

You simply don’t have the time to find out in week 6 that you are not getting the grade you want. So, hatch your plan on the first day of summer school!

then, part two…

-Talk to your professor every day, if necessary!
Have I mentioned in this post that summer school moves at a quicker pace? That you may feel like you have to learn at lightning speed? (I believe I have!). If you struggle in the shorter timeline, there aren’t as many days to pick up the pieces. So, ask for help as often as you need it and be extremely proactive with your professor!

In fact, don’t just rely on your prof for help: A summer term is a great time to familiarize yourself with other on-campus resources. Ask your prof, “Can you tell me what tutoring, resource centers, or other campus help might be available?” Then go to those areas and check on the summer hours. You’ll be so ready to use them again in the fall!

If you’re struggling, it might be tempting to drop your summer class, and the only way I’d even consider recommending this is if you and the prof collaboratively determine that you are far in over your head (On this note, don’t take your toughest class in the summer unless you can devote every waking hour to it, and to getting help for it). Otherwise, this accelerated schedule is a great time to pump up your work ethic, become brilliant about locating help for yourself, and get to know on-campus services that you may not have needed or had time to investigate.

-Ask about your prof’s office hours or e-mail availability, if this is not abundantly clear in the syllabus.
Most profs feel just like students do: It’s a long year; we want to hook up some pool/beach! Profs do not usually have committee work or regular meetings over the summer, which means that they are not available on campus as much. This could be a disadvantage for you if you need lots of help, but your prof does have a responsibility to be there for you. If your syllabus doesn’t say when your prof is available, either in-office, on the phone, or on e-mail, then say, “When are you available to students when we aren’t in class?” Then schedule yourself around those times.

-Chat up classmates–quickly! 
In summer, your class make-up may be different than the rest of the year. Students from other colleges and the workforce might pick up a course or two. You can make some great contacts, but nurturing new friendships and networks takes time. Try making some small talk early, such as:

“I see that you have U of X logo on your backpack. Was last year your first year?”
“I remember that A & P book. Do you have Professor Jones?”
“You said on the first day of class that you work for the city. How long have you worked there?”
“Didn’t you and I have Environmental Science together last semester?”

-Get to know profs-to-be.
It’s hard not to count down the seconds before summer class ends so you can sprint to your car, get to work, or hit the pool or beach. However, if you will remain at the same institution for your fall term, sticking around campus after class, or getting on campus an hour or so early, can give you a head start for later. Here’s why:

Many students know their fall schedule when taking summer classes. This gives you a golden opportunity to meet your profs well before the term starts, if they are on campus during the summer. Why not go visit a prof or two, say hello, see if you can grab a syllabus, and even check out the textbook? If you have a special issue with a course, or have particular goals, even more reason to see the prof early and say,

“Hello, I’m Ellen (your name, of course!). I’m looking forward to taking your class, but have an intense fear of public speaking. Have any early suggestions I can use?” (Saying, “I just wanted to let you know” is also fine)


“Hello, I’m Ellen. I know this is really early, but I’m in your class this fall. I’d love to see a syllabus if you have one so I can learn about the class and prepare myself.”

The personal connection will make you feel more comfortable when you walk into a prof’s class on the first day.

And, if your feelings aren’t warm and fuzzy about the prof or the class, guess what? You have plenty of time to get out of that class and change your schedule.

Prof off for the summer? The department secretary might have access to a syllabus from the previous term.

I sincerely hope that you have an incredible summer that is full of barbecues, lots of (safe!) sunning, outdoor movies, vacations… and the college credits that you seek.

Use your voice and make it so!

For students who are summer school veterans, what are your tips for success? Colleagues? What would you tell students about summer school?

Want some summer reading to give you some incredible talking tips with your profs for fall? Say This, NOT That to Your Professor is out now!

1 Comment

  1. Great suggestions. I made it through UT-Austin engineering school in 4-years simply because I took classes every summer. And they are CONDENSED!!

    My oldest is signed up for two classes this summer. If she gets them out of the way, she gets to enter the business school early and save at least a semester as a result of getting the prereqs out of the way.

    She did rock that freshman year…has enough credit hours to be considered a junior, and she managed to pull off over a 3.7 GPA. I’m a proud papa. I think she is doing these summer classes right by taking them at a community college to simply have them transfer versus count for/against the GPA. We did discover that even community colleges have become quite expensive, though!

    Good suggestions on getting proactive early on condensed summer school classes, Ellen.


  1. Are Summer Classes Harder? Only If You Want Them to Be | Kibin Blog - [...] fact, Professor Ellen Bremen, the Chatty Professor, encourages you to take advantage of this and talk to your professor ...

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