The fall semester is nearing conclusion and winter break is just around the corner. You can practically smell the balsam fir. If you’re among the 25% of Americans who actually like the taste of eggnog, this is your time of year. But if you’re a student looking for a way to catch up on lost credits, or maybe even get ahead, this is your time of year too. While your classmates are counting down the days until vacation, you may prefer to spend this holiday season doing something productive...not that rest, relaxation, and seasonal mirth aren’t productive. All of these things are great, but they won’t get you to graduation any faster.
Winter classes, on the other hand, can be an extremely valuable way to accelerate the path to completion. But are winter classes right for you? And are those college credits worth sacrificing the seasonal feasts, pajama parties, and John Hughes movie marathons? Well, that depends on you and your situation. If you think you’re interested in taking winter classes, reach out to your academic advisor and find out what your school has to offer.
If you’d like to learn more about winter classes, read on…
Winter classes are typically sessions which compress full three-credit courses into an extremely truncated length of time which overlaps with winter holiday. While your college or university is generally closed to regular sessions, and while many on-campus students are home for the holidays, you may be able to take a course, or several courses, during 2-3 week sessions. Sometimes also called winter term, or intersession, this is an opportunity to make up credits for courses you might have been unable to access during the regular term, to make up for credits in incomplete or failed courses, or even to get a jumpstart on courses for the coming semester.Back to Top
Winter classes work by condensing the curriculum and testing of a 15-week course into just two or three weeks. This means that you will likely be required to sit through double lecture periods and meet multiple times throughout each week. Many winter session programs are conducted through online instruction, which allows for a bit more flexibility in satisfying these credit hours. Some asynchronous instruction may be provided in online winter courses. After the successful completion of your winter session, you will have added three credits to your credit total.Back to Top
The benefits of winter classes depend on your educational goals. The winter term can be a great way to make up for missed courses or missed time during a prior semester. For instance, if you were locked out of a popular fall semester course that also happens to be a prerequisite for your major, you’ll likely be competing with far fewer students to get a seat in the winter session. This is a great way to continue in your progress toward a degree without wasting any time. The same is true if you were forced to withdraw from a class, failed a class, or fell short of completion for personal reasons. Winter sessions provide a reprieve that can keep you on pace toward a timely graduation. And if you’re feeling ambitious, a steady combination of winter and summer intersession classes could actually help you graduate early. Read on to find out how.
The winter term can be a great way to make up for missed courses or missed time during a prior semester.”
The first drawback is pretty obvious. If you like stuff like vacations, holidays and sleeping late, understand that you will be giving up a lot of free time to get this done. The productivity may be worth it, but you shouldn’t overlook the value of rest and relaxation between fall and spring semesters. Decompressing and blowing off steam can be critical to your mental health. Winter classes are the exact opposite of decompressing…literally. Because course material is compressed into a shorter period of time, the program will be more rigorous than what you’re accustomed to. Lessons will move at a lightning pace, and you will be expected to master a semester’s worth of concepts and material in just a few sessions. So be prepared to trade in your vacation for a few weeks of really hard work. It’s up to you to make a calculated decision about whether this is the right move for you. Thoughtfully weigh the pros and cons before enrolling.
The deadline for registration is different at every school, but generally speaking, registration for winter classes will begin in the middle of fall semester—typically in October. Most colleges will allow enrollment through early December. Additional fees may apply for those registering late. Generally speaking, winter courses will begin just before the Christmas holiday, and will run through the first two weeks of January. Some schools offer opportunities to withdraw from winter courses by a specified deadline in exchange for a partial refund. Familiarize yourself with all deadlines at your college or university if you’re considering taking winter courses.Back to Top
Winter classes offer one way to earn additional credits outside the traditional fall/spring semester structure, but there are other ways to either make up for missed credits or get ahead on the path to graduation. Among them, many schools also offer summer sessions. Because these intercessions are generally longer, it’s usually possible to complete a few accelerated courses and to possibly earn more credits than you might in a winter session. Internships and study abroad programs also offer two great ways to earn credits outside of the traditional fall and spring semesters.Back to Top
Winter classes are definitely more challenging than traditional classes. The accelerated pace means that you must take some additional steps to ensure your success. Because things move quickly during the winter session, you really can’t afford to procrastinate or fall behind. There are a few things you can do to improve your chances though:
And of course, you want to be sure that you’re optimizing your approach to research, study, and assignment completion. For a few tips, check out our Guide to College Study Skills.Back to Top
You can certainly save money. This is one of the biggest benefits of winter sessions. When it comes to financial aid and tuition, you are typically charged per academic year, as opposed to per credit or per course. What does that mean? In many cases, your winter session will actually be free of charge. This can be a way to gain three more credits without paying a dollar more. In other words, the more intersession courses you can complete, the more likely you are to either graduate early or at least avoid spending any extra time (or money) in college. The end result could be an altogether more efficient and affordable college experience.
For other tips on keeping pace toward graduation, check out our look at How You Can Graduate in Four Years.