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Summer Classes for Non-Traditional Students

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Finish College »

When you hear the words “college student,” you might picture an 18-to-22-year-old who lives on campus and attends classes full time. But did you know that most college students are actually considered to be “non-traditional?” In fact, about 74% of people who attend college differ in some way from the typical college student archetype.

There are a number of factors that make you unique, whether you are enrolled part time, take classes online, or have a family to support. Whatever your circumstances, you might find it helpful to save some time by enrolling in summer courses. 

Keep reading to learn more about summer classes and how they can put you on the fast track to your degree!

What Is a Non-Traditional Student?

A non-traditional student is anyone who attends college in any way that differs from the full-time, four-year track straight after high school.

A few examples of non-traditional students are as follows:

  • Parents going back to college to obtain their degree
  • Adult learners over 25
  • Part-time college students
  • Students balancing school with a full-time job

Why Take a Summer Class as a Non-Traditional Student?

Summer classes are a great way to get ahead in your degree! Adult learners tend to have lots of other responsibilities outside of school, all of which make finishing college an extra challenge. 

Instead, you can take classes as a non-traditional student to finish your classes and obtain your degree quicker than you otherwise could. Sometimes, classes can even be cheaper than those during the school year as well.

What Do Summer Classes Look Like?

Every summer class is going to look a little bit different from one another, and not just because multiple subjects from the arts to the sciences are available. One thing to keep in mind is that summer classes will definitely look different at a 4-year university than it would at a community college. Typically, a summer class at a community college will be much smaller than one at a 4-year university, which means you may have more one-on-one attention from the professor during summer school.

Not only that, but community college classes may go at a slower pace so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with the amount of work thrown at you in such a short period of time. Neither is better or worse than the other, but make sure to ask your advisor which credits will be able to count toward your degree.

The Different Types of Summer Classes

Summer classes are typically pretty similar to those offered during the actual school year. They are, however, a bit shorter and move at a faster pace.

Courses in Your Major

As you progress through your degree, the classes you take will get more challenging. You could take all those hard classes at once, studying for four tough sets of midterms and final exams within the same semester. But why make it so hard for yourself? 

Taking summer classes specific to your major can help distribute challenging courses more evenly throughout the year. It will also ensure that you never get rusty regarding different concepts that you need for your field of study.

General Education Courses

Most colleges require that you fulfill a set of general education (or core curriculum) courses that every student must take. These are typically a set of classes that cover subjects in all major disciplines, such as the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and written communication. 

General education courses are important for developing a well-rounded perspective through different disciplines. They are, however, often lower-level classes that can be a bit easier to grasp than the 200-, 300-, and 400-level courses that you will experience in your major. If you choose to fulfill a few of your gen ed credits over the summer, you can clear up your schedule in the fall and spring semesters for those that go further in depth into one area of study.


Depending on your degree, you may need to take a certain number of electives to fulfill all your requirements.

Summer is a great time to try out an elective that may seem either more difficult or even fun! This way, you can either 1) solely focus on a difficult class so it has your full attention, or 2) feel that you are enjoying an entertaining class and getting a bit of a break while still getting the credits you need to graduate.

Some electives that you could choose from depend on your degree and what courses are offered at your school, but here are some popular elective classes that you can consider:

  • Personal Finance
  • Web design and development
  • Foreign language classes
  • Statistics
  • Psychology classes
  • Marketing
  • Art classes
  • Creative writing

Any of the above classes come with valuable information that you can take with you in your major as well as the rest of your life. A personal finance class could help you manage your spending, web design can give you a crash course on modern tech, and creative writing can give you new and interesting ways to communicate.

Elective summer classes can be a great way to fulfill some extra credits while opening up the rest of your schedule throughout the year for the other classes that you want to give your full attention to.

Enroll in a Summer Course!

Taking summer courses keeps your mind active all year round, all while staying ahead of schedule to keep you on track for graduation. While their material can be delivered quite quickly, summer classes are cost- and time-effective options that will earn you your degree even more quickly than the degree-completion program in which you’re already enrolled. For more advice on earning a degree that is Affordable, Accelerated, Accessible, and Advanced, check out all of our other articles in Abound: Finish College’s Advice section!

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