Taking a Winter Class? 4 Things to Keep in Mind

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Whether you are in high school or college, many students take a winter class to get ahead on coursework between semesters to lighten their load for the rest of the academic year. Taking a class in the winter session can be a lot to take on, so be sure you’re ready to tackle what’s ahead. To ensure you are up for the challenge, here are four things to keep in mind as you begin your winter class.

Accelerated, intensive curriculum

Ultimately, it depends on the school, but winter courses are often worth the same number of credit hours or units as your courses offered in the traditional semester. In addition, the learning objectives in a winter course offering will likely mirror that of the equivalent course in a fall or spring semester. However, you are covering the same material in a condensed time frame. Compressing a 16-week syllabus into just three to five weeks can make any course feel intensive and, possibly, overwhelming. Due to these circumstances, be prepared to attend class and study on a daily basis. To help ensure your success, you will need to set a rigid schedule allowing yourself enough time to focus on preparing for class and studying.

Limited course selection

Because enrollment in the winter session is not mandatory, and is often seen as an opportunity to either catch-up or get ahead, the course selection can be limited. You may be able to find your general studies courses, such as English and math, but it might be harder to find a more specific or advanced course. Before you get attached to a specific winter course, be sure to consult with an advisor to ensure what you’ve registered for matches your goals and will give you the appropriate credits you need.  

Prepare for distractions

Along with colder weather, winter also ushers in the holiday season. Whether you enjoy seasonal festivities or not, they can cause quite a distraction for a student enrolled in a demanding winter course. If you have family or friends in town, enjoy the snowfalls, or tend to have a lot of personal commitments around the holidays, you’ll need to prepare even more thoroughly for your rigid study schedule (see above). Although it is not impossible to take a class while celebrating the holidays and spending time with loved ones, you will absolutely need a strict plan to maintain your academic performance and not let these distractions get the best of you. Let your family and friends know you are taking a winter class so that you have their encouragement, support, and understanding. Create a detailed winter calendar to schedule class time, study time, and any leisure time or personal commitments. The best way to prepare for distractions is to have a plan and stick to it.  

Sparse financial aid

Have lot of time over the winter and can’t wait to get some credits out of the way? Before you get too excited, consider your financial situation and whether or not you can actually afford to take this class. Winter courses are often charged at the regular rate of tuition, but unfortunately, there is not always as much financial aid available in the winter. Again, this depends on the school at hand, so just to be sure, talk to your financial aid office to find out if you’re able to use leftover financial aid or if there are any specialized grants or scholarships available for winter.

There are many things to consider as you sign up for a winter class. If you aren’t sure what to do, seek advice from an academic advisor or a school counselor. They should be able to help you determine if a winter class is the right choice for you. Best of luck!

Brenna Tonelli is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

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