How do I Choose the Best Graduate Summer School?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Graduate summer school is available from almost all universities, providing the opportunity for graduate students to work on their master's or doctoral degrees year round. Unlike bachelor's degrees, these programs are much more independent, and students are expected to be working toward completing their education all year long. The vast majority of academic instructors do not have vacation during the summer, but use this time to focus on research, course preparation, and teaching a much lighter course load.

The courses available through graduate summer school vary widely, and are based on demand, resources, and the availability of specific personal. Depending on the field of study, classes can be held off-campus or on a research site, allowing students to complete course work and gain valuable research experience simultaneously. In addition to the course availability, students should look into instructor availability, course description, and location of the class when selecting the best graduate summer school.

Wherever possible, graduate summer school courses should be taken at your primary educational institution. Although there is some overlap, the vast majority of graduate courses are independent work related, requiring contact with academic advisers, colleagues, and other resources. Although these options are all available from other schools, the instructors will not have the same level of familiarity with your selected thesis topic, or the process used to define your work. If you are taking a course from graduate summer school that is instructor-led, make sure that it will be accepted by your primary institution before registering.

Course descriptions as published in the syllabus are a good way to get a general idea of the focus of the course. However, it is advisable to create a short list of courses you are interested in completed in graduate summer school and then contacting the program coordinator for a more detailed course description. The description will be at least two pages in length and include the text book, reference materials, evaluation criteria, and a summary of research projects. Using this information, you will be able to decide what courses will be best.

The introduction of online learning has broadened the location options for graduate summer school. Many universities now offer online access to graduate courses, ranging from research driven to instructor led. Students must have reliable access to the Internet, but are otherwise free to travel or work from different locations as needed. In addition to this option, many programs arrange exchanges or off-campus courses that take advantage of different climates or availability of residence space at affiliated universities. Talk with your program coordinator to learn what is available.

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