How to Choose a Summer School

October 24, 2023
5 min read
Cress Warnell

By choosing to attend summer school you’re making an investment in your future life. If you allow it to, a summer school course teaches you about much more than your chosen subject. You can also learn about the city where the course takes place, about what it’s like to be a student at a top university, and about yourself.

Summer schools are becoming increasingly popular as more people realise what they have to offer. They do more than fill the summer learning gap, or give you something to do that’s away from home.

A summer school course is a culturally enriching experience. You meet an exciting mix of people from different backgrounds. You get to spend time with leading academics, who have influenced many of today’s business and political leaders. Above all that, you get insights that will help you make important decisions about your future.

Not sure how to choose a summer school that’s right for you? We’ve written this guide to help you.

Know what you want from summer school

Are you excited about the enriching experience we just talked about? A summer school can help you:

  • Discover new places.
  • Meet interesting, like-minded people.
  • Learn about fascinating subjects.
  • Experience life in a world-class university.
  • Take a valuable step into your future career.

Before you sign up for a course, you need to be clear what you want from your summer school experience. It may be all of the above, but put them into order. What’s most important?

Let’s say you really want to learn at Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. Or you want to study medicine in the future. Or you’re open to new experiences with new people.

Knowing what’s most important to you can help you choose the right summer school course.

The different subjects available at summer school

It seems there’s now a summer school for almost every subject. Certainly there’s a huge variety on offer.

You may have a very specific subject area in mind, such as engineering, medicine or art. This will help you to narrow your choice, although there are still likely to be options within that subject area. Some summer school courses are introductions, while others dig deeper into one particular aspect of a subject.

Your course choices could include:

  • Art history
  • Business and entrepreneurship
  • Computing and coding
  • Introduction to medicine
  • Summer orchestra
  • Beginners tennis

These are just a flavour of the huge choice available. To help you choose, consider the direction you’d like your future career to take.

A medical summer school course would look great on your application to medical school. If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future, pick a course that looks the most fun!

What a typical summer school looks like

There are many different types of summer school. However, here’s what you might expect the experience to look like.

A typical course runs for two weeks. Some are a little shorter - others can run for up to 8 weeks. The majority have a duration of around two weeks.

Based at a leading university. Whether the summer school is based on sport, arts or sciences, you’ll be able to take advantage of their excellent facilities.

Taught by university-level tutors. The courses are led by academics and specialists who also teach students at some of the world’s top universities and schools.

Small class sizes. In a typical university-based summer school you won’t be lost in a crowd of students. Class sizes are usually kept small, to help you get the best learning experience.

Excursions and cultural experiences. There's more to most summer schools than classrooms and assignments. They include visits to historic landmarks, theatres, galleries and city centres.

University-style accommodation. Many summer schools give you the experience of private rooms and dining halls used by university students during term time.

An adventure you’ll never forget. Summer school is a place where you make new friends, explore new places and deepen your understanding of the world around you.

Choose the location of your summer school

Universities and other educational institutions all around the world offer summer schools. The most popular are in the UK, USA and Australia.

These attract students from across the globe. While there's a huge benefit in attending a summer school in your own country, travelling to another nation makes the experience much richer. It brings a new level of cultural learning, as you encounter how other people live.

On your summer school course you are very likely to meet students from other nations. The cosmopolitan nature of these courses will help you develop a deeper understanding of the rich diversity in our global population.

Choose a summer school to help your future career

Your time at summer school could make a huge difference to your career. It may help you to get into your top choice of university or course. Or it could help you determine what direction you want your life to take.

Summer school courses include assignments to help you assess what you’ve achieved. These are markers of your progress in a particular subject, sport or skill, and they can also highlight areas where there’s scope for you to improve.

Your summer school experience helps you to stand out when you apply for a place at university, because it shows your commitment to learning and to broadening your perspective.

If you want to become a doctor, a physicist, an engineer or a world-class athlete, taking a summer school course in that subject is a step towards your goal.

Perhaps you’re not clear what path you want to take in the future. Choosing a course in a subject that appeals can help you decide whether that’s an area you want to pursue into a career.

It’s important to remember that every university and educational institution has its own entry requirements. If you’re choosing a summer school to support your application to a specific centre of learning, it’s good to check with them about what credit this might give you.

Choose a summer school for networking and cultural growth

Summer school gives you a fantastic opportunity to meet well-informed teachers and like-minded students. Over the weeks of the course you’ll get to know them - some may well become friends for life.

As you make friends on your course you are establishing a network of valuable contacts. Some of these contacts could become your future colleagues or people you collaborate with. They might help open the door to new opportunities, or you may do the same for them.

Summer school helps you develop your network of contacts and it also allows you to deepen your appreciation of culture. Summer school involves excursions and explorations of heritage sites such as historic houses and landmarks, galleries and museums.

There’s also a social side to summer school. You’ll be given time for recreational activities, allowing you to get to know other students on the same course in an informal setting.

Practical details of attending a summer school

There’s a lot to think about when choosing a summer school. Here are many of the details you should consider before making your final choice.

How you will get there. If you’re travelling to another city, or country, you’ll want to arrive in plenty of time. Your travel may also include applying for visas.

The preparation required before the course. You’ll typically receive a welcome pack, giving an outline of the course. This may include some preparation exercises to be completed in advance of the course.

Your choice of accommodation. Many courses allow you to stay in a university residence. However, you may be travelling with your parents and prefer to stay with them, or want to make some other arrangements.

The equipment you need for the course. The course provider will let you have a guide as to what you need to bring with you in terms of clothing and equipment. This will vary, depending on whether it’s an academic, sports, music or arts course. Some requirements will be mandatory, others optional.

How much it will cost. In addition to the course fees there will be expenses such as travel, appropriate clothing and equipment, insurance and visas (if going abroad) and spending money. The course organisers will inform you what additional costs you might expect.

Questions to ask when choosing the right summer school

To help you decide which summer school course and location will be best for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • What subject do I want to learn more about?
  • What nation or city do I want to experience as a student?
  • What summer school course will help my university application?
  • What’s the most important lesson I want to learn from summer school?

When you’re considering a particular course, it’s good to ask these questions:

  • How long is the course and does it fit my schedule?
  • What is the course curriculum and what is the teaching style?
  • How will my work during the course be assessed?
  • Where will I stay during the course?
  • Does the course include excursions and cultural experiences?
  • How much recreation and social time will I get?
  • Do I think this course is good value for money?

Let us show you how to choose a summer school

There’s a wealth of choice when it comes to selecting a summer school. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and unsure about what’s the best course for you.

You may also have questions that the course information doesn’t give in the detail you’re looking for, such as the teaching styles, the nature of the accommodation or the application requirements.

You may have particular needs around accessibility, dietary requirements or course timings that you need more information about in order to make a decision.

We’re here to answer your questions and to help. Our team has years of experience supporting students and their families as they select the summer school that’s right for them.

You want to be confident that you’re choosing the right summer school experience. We can help you do that - get in touch with us today.

Cress Warnell

Cress is a skilled copywriter who transforms ideas into captivating content. With a passion for words and a keen eye for detail, she crafts compelling copy for Summer Schools, helping students explore their options in education.

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