January 18, 2018

Five Must Do’s Before You Leave Summer School (Includes Grade-Saving Advice!)

Before you leave Summer School - Photo copyright 2007 Rick Sherrell

A gigantic bravo to you if you are reading this post and nearing the end of your summer term. Going to school in the summer is awesome and challenging all at the same time. The awesome? You racked up some additional credits. The challenging? You had to miss some hours of sunshine, pool or beach in order to achieve those credits.

Now you’re nearing the end and hopefully you have a little time off before fall term. Before you do a college check-out for a few weeks, here are five things to do before you go:

If you have any concerns about your grade or where you stand in the class, talk to your prof today.

You already know that the pace of summer school means that you have no time to waste. Now that you are at the end, know that your prof will likely turn in grades and high-tail it out of the parking lot in order to preserve what’s left of his/her summer. Do not wait until grades are posted to find out where you stand. You must say this now: “Professor Jones, I want to make sure that we both have the same calculations for my final grade. When are you available to discuss this?”

Keep talking to your professor (daily, if necessary) if there is a grade problem.

This discussion could take on two forms: First, you want to find out exactly what is required for final work or exams if those assignments could improve your grade (Qualifier here: If you’ve blown it all, your chances of recovery are probably not very strong). Second, if you have a genuine grade dispute, you will need to schedule an in-person meeting with your professor—or several meetings—to hash out the problem. Once again, there is no time to pick up the pieces of a bad summer term, but if you’ve worked hard and your grade is not what you expect, be extremely proactive to solve the problem before grades are submitted.

Find out if the summer drop date has passed (just in case) and discuss your options with your prof.

If you had the best intentions, but your life situation changed, or you took your hardest class and struggled the whole way, your prof may have to help you consider alternatives. You can ask, “Do you think my grade is recoverable? Or is it in my best interest to drop this class?” Within this discussion, you may find that other options are available to you, but you will have to ask about them. For instance, you may say “Could I possibly take an incomplete?” If the policies of your college and professor agree, an incomplete could offer you the last few weeks of summer to finish up your missed work and your “I” grade could be reversed in early fall. I have to reiterate that you can’t solve a failing summer term right at the end. Dropping the course may be the best option.

Familiarize yourself with on-campus resources before you leave.

A summer term is usually a little quieter on campus with fewer students around at one given time. Take a stroll in the sunshine and find out where other services are located. Your prof can help. Ask, “Can you tell me what tutoring, resource centers, or other campus help might be available?” Visit those areas so you are ready to use them in the fall.

Get to know profs-to-be.

If you will be at your college for fall term, go visit a prof (if they are on campus for the summer) or two, say hello, see if you can grab a syllabus, and even check out the textbook. If you have a special issue with a course, or have particular goals, even more reason to see the prof early and say…

“Hello, I’m Ellen. I’m looking forward to taking your class, but have an intense fear of public speaking. Have any early suggestions I can use?” (Saying, “I just wanted to let you know” is also fine)


“Hello, I’m Ellen. I know this is really early, but I’m in your class this fall. I’d love to see a syllabus if you have one so I can learn about the class and prepare myself.”

The personal connection will make you feel more comfortable when you walk into a prof’s class on the first day.

And, if your feelings aren’t warm and fuzzy about the prof or the class, guess what? You have time to get out of that class and change your schedule.

Prof off for the summer? The department secretary might have access to a syllabus from the previous term.

I sincerely hope that you have an incredible remainder of the summer that is full of barbecues, lots of (safe!) sunning, outdoor movies, vacations, and your earned summer term credits! Congratulations!

For students who are summer school veterans, what are your tips for success? Colleagues? What would you tell students about summer school?

About the Author: Ellen Bremen (17 Posts)

Ellen Bremen is tenured faculty at Highline Community College and the author of Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success (NorLights Press, April 2012). Ellen stops at nothing to help students strengthen their communication skills: Peanut butter and jelly to illustrate problematic messages, pipe cleaners to teach communication models, and Post-it notes to reduce speaking anxiety. Ellen holds degrees in Post-Secondary Education and Communication. As an interpersonal communication expert, Ellen has watched students struggle to navigate their classes, especially their communication with professors. Ellen's goal? To help students correctly--not cluelessly--speak/deal with those who teach them. The outcome? Better student-prof relationships, improved grades, and confident and competent communication skills for college and beyond. Ellen's philosophy: College is THE safe training ground for students to practice and hone assertive and professional communication skills. Then, students can transition this sought-after skill to their professional and personal lives. Ellen looks forward to answering students' simple and complex questions about communication in college, and particularly professor-related challenges.

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