It was 7 a.m. on Thursday, May 30. My first assignment for a Temple summer course, a simple 3-page paper, is due in 5 hours and I have no script written in my Word document.
Normally, a simple critical analysis would be a non-issue for a seasoned procrastinator such as myself. However, when writing this first paper I experienced an odd mix of frustration and boredom. The adrenaline rush that typically accompanied an approaching deadline was strangely absent. I felt like my brain was an outdated Dell, slowly struggling to accomplish the simple task of turning on and accessing the desired information.
While I struggled to formulate the simplest of arguments, my mind kept drifting away over and over again. I’d find myself suddenly pondering beach trips, tennis, Frisbee and basically anything I could be doing with a nice summer day besides thought-provoking work. At the end of the day I read the work I had submitted as my own, leaving me confused and dismayed by my own ineptitude.
Had I really accustomed myself to a three-month break from academic thought? How long would it take my brain to return to its fall semester state? With two weeks of class in the books, no grades to post and only four weeks to go, I knew one thing: summer courses don’t leave much room for recovery.
If you think about it, summer sessions are insane. Over three months of curriculum is jammed into a mere six weeks. How could one possibly have time to retrieve graded work, correct mistakes and learn amongst such a rapid fire of critical assignments? The university tries to make up for an accelerated calendar by offering more frequent and time consuming class periods, but these options fall short.
I did the minute math when I selected my summer courses last spring. I found that for the standard Fox business course that my major required, all options would give me approximately 36 hours of class time. Your typical thrice a week, fifty-minute class- the lowest amount of class time offered in a Fall or Spring Semester- grants you close to 42 hours of class time. Simply put, taking a summer class is like automatically missing two weeks of class time before you even start.
There’s no time for stupid questions, spacing out or teachable tangents. A mere five minute Q&A sufficed for syllabi review before my professor’s first lecture on two chapters of- you guessed it- a book he wrote. The idea that Temple’s summer sessions were easy A’s seemed comical to me about five minutes into my professor’s lecture.
With an assignment due every other class period, multiple group projects and a strict attendance policy, it became evident that missing class was not an option. After all, we were already two weeks behind with only six left to go.
As is typically normal for collegiate classes, group projects are crapshoots. With most students working part or full time, negotiating meeting times becomes increasingly difficult, normally culminating in the phrase, “I’ll send you a Google doc”. In my case, I ran into two common group types: the group in which you must do everything and the group where everyone will participate equally, but averagely.
Similarly, the basic rule of college academia still applies. A good teacher will teach, a bad teacher will grade and your grade rests on your shoulders and in their hands. Overall, I wouldn’t say that summer courses are easy A’s, but rather easy B’s or C’s. Pushing yourself above where the professor sets his class average will take as much- if not more- work than your typical class, because one bad week is not an option.
With only one class, a presentation and a critical analysis standing between me and the lone week of freedom between summer sessions, I have only received three graded assignments. I can confidently say I have taken away nothing from my class other than a deeper knowledge of my academic conditioning. Luckily, I was able to adjust before my next assignment, focusing more time on my studies until I regained my groove. My mind will be running without its annual break for the first time in my life this year. Adjustments, however small, will have to be made.
For those of you who have exams and papers due during a summer course: I am truly sorry for your loss.
Matt Kirk can be reached at email@example.com.