Submitted from Admissions Science
Should I take summer classes at a college so that I can take higher level classes in school?
Taking summer classes can allow you to take higher level classes during the school year. This increases the overall rigor of your course load, which colleges care about.
But before taking any summer classes, you should consider the opportunity cost.
It boils down to asking one question:
“Are there other things I can do during the summer that will improve my application even more?"
In general, there are three other activities that are better investments of your time.
Alternative #1. Hands-on internships in your field of interest.
This type of experience shows colleges that you “walk the walk.” Furthermore, you can get a great recommendation out of this.
If you're interested in Computer Science:
Instead of taking a C.S. class over the summer, apply to intern with a local startup as an engineering intern.
If you're interested in Physics:
Instead of taking a Physics class over the summer, try to work in a lab with a professor at a local university. You may even be able to help publish a paper!
Alternative #2. Attend a prestigious summer program.
Getting into a top summer program signals to colleges that you’re competent in your area of interest. Alums from prestigious summer programs are also more likely to get into top colleges.
If you're interested in the Humanities:
Instead of a generic summer class, apply to the Clark Scholars Program. It’s a competitive research program that’s free for admits, with room and board covered.
If you're interested in Government:
Instead of taking a leadership class, apply to the U.S. Senate Page program. You’ll get to work with Senators directly, and gain invaluable in-person experience.
Alternative #3. Build and expand your Showstopper Activity.
If you have a venture you’ve been building, this is a great time to double down and expand upon it.
If you're interested in Environmental Science:
Instead of taking a science class, try partnering with Big Brother Big Sister and create a curriculum on sustainability.
If you're interested in Business:
Instead of taking a business class, start your own venture that solves a problem in your community. It doesn't have to be a runaway success. Something meaningful that gives you hands-on experience is impressive enough!
Here’s a caveat to the three options above:
If you are freshman or in middle school, you may not have these opportunities. There are often age requirements for summer programs and internships. In these cases, it's fine to take a class to accelerate your academic progress. You should also consider using it as a way to explore other interests you have.
Also, EdX.org is a great resource for all students. You can learn and take courses from universities around the world, like Harvard or MIT. It's free and you can go at your own pace.