While many McGill students spend their summers working seasonal jobs or jet-setting around the globe, for many others, this presumed period of rest and relaxation is all but an extension of their years-long quest to earn their degree.
During three sessions in the summer months, McGill offers a vast array of summer courses across departments at both the downtown and Macdonald campuses. These courses offer a condensed alternative to semester-long courses, allowing students to earn credits quickly but more intensely.
As Clement Cai, U1 Arts, points out, this can be particularly beneficial for graduating students seeking to complete complementary or required courses and electives.
“If you’re a senior student on the verge of graduation without enough credits, then taking one or more summer courses can help you collect [credits], and give you time to [focus on] graduation,” Cai told The McGill Tribune.
With the return to in-person learning, summer courses also give McGillians the opportunity to extend their stay in Montreal and explore all that the city has to offer in the summertime. From terrasse season to studying outdoors, there are tons of memories that can be made during the Montreal summer. For Melissa Carter, U1 Arts, this was one of the biggest draws to taking a summer course this year.
“I saw a different side of Montreal than ever before,” said Carter. “It’s beautiful during the spring and summer and there are tons of parks to explore.”
The smaller class sizes of some summer courses versus larger prerequisite courses allow students like Cai and Carter to connect with their classmates on a one-on-one basis—bonds that were difficult to create during the winter semester that largely began online.
“My sociology course had about 40 or 50 people and after being online for so long, everyone made an effort to talk to each other and form study groups,” Carter said.
These condensed courses, however, are not without their own set of challenges. The fast pace of summer classes means that they require different learning and study methods to keep up with the material and evaluations.
For Carter, staying on top of her course’s content right after lectures was key to overcoming the shorter windows between evaluations.
“I studied what [I] learned immediately after class and then put my notes into Quizlet to make studying for the exams easier,” Carter told the Tribune.
Georgia Soumakis, U1 Arts, echoed the need for consistent studying for those who wish to stay on top of their summer studies.
“[Summer courses] can be tough because during the year you can catch up pretty easily if you fall behind,” Soumakis said. “With condensed courses, you really have to put in the time every day and stay on top of your game—there’s not really time to slack off.”
Students who are working jobs in addition to taking summer courses are faced with the further challenges of balancing work expectations with school—a balancing act that is necessary for the countless McGill students who rely on the summer to earn a full-time income.
Soumakis’s job, along with her lingering feelings of burnout from the fall and winter semesters, were what made summer studying difficult, particularly when her final exam was approaching.
“I was working a job and an internship that all overlapped during the final week of my summer course, which made studying for the final [exam] much more challenging,” Soumakis said. “The workload definitely felt like a continuation of the school year.”
K.R. Sun, U1 Science, found that efficient and varied studying patterns were key to juggling a full-time job with the fast-paced demands of summer learning.
“I upped my work hours during the summer, but it left me with very little energy to study,” Sun told the Tribune. “I started to look for multiple resources online to learn, which helped me grasp class content better.”
Despite these challenges, Sun highly recommends summer courses to their fellow McGill students.
“You get the same knowledge, but quicker, and if you’re interested, summer provides a lot of time to do that extra reading.”