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Should you take summer classes?

If you’re disciplined and driven, spending your summer with your head in the books may not be such a bad idea.

Should you take summer classes?

School’s out for the summer...or is it? While the majority of students spend their summer vacation relaxing, others will speed up their graduation timeline by enrolling in summer courses or doing for-credit internships.

If you’re wondering why someone would voluntarily attend summer school, the reason is simple: You complete your degree faster—and it’s cheaper. Summer classes generally offer significant savings compared to regular semester rates and taking summer courses to graduate early saves you money on tuition, room and board and living expenses.

It seems like a win-win, but it’s certainly no easy task. So the question is, overall, do the pros of graduating early really outweigh the cons? Monster spoke with experts and millennials alike to determine the benefits and drawbacks of spending your summer in the classroom.

Pro: You save money

It’s a no-brainer—with the cost of tuition at private four-year colleges averaging $32,405, according to the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT, and the average student loan debt reaching upwards $35,000, every penny counts. Graduating early can cut a lot of these big costs, and if you can pay for summer classes up front or work with a payment plan, you eliminate needing an additional loan, which means there won’t be interest to pay later.

Jennifer Rivera, a marketing assistant at Okapi Educational Publishing, in Temecula, California, managed to save money by earning both her a bachelor’s and master’s degrees ahead of schedule. She started preparing in high school by taking Advanced Placement and college courses. Rivera then took courses at a community college to replace her general education requirements, noting that the summer courses were cheaper per credit compared to what a four-year institution charges.

“We want students to graduate with as little debt as possible,” says Joey Williams, executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas at Austin, “so graduating early has a big financial benefit.” How much of a financial benefit? Well, think of it this way. Even graduating one semester early can save you anywhere near $18,000. Can you say “new car”?

Con: You have a heavy workload

It makes sense to want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and there’s a lot of pressure on students to do that, says Karen Atlus, associate director of the Center for Career and Calling at Seattle Pacific University.

You can be sure that an intense schedule and the stress that comes along with it can be major drawbacks to graduating early. Atlus says it takes a certain constitution for a student to be ready and prepared for the workload that comes along with speeding up their graduation timeline.

Pro: You benefit from a smaller class size

A huge benefit to taking summer courses is that the class sizes are much smaller, which means students get more one-on-one attention from their professors. Research from the National Education Association shows that students in smaller classes not only perform better when compared to their peers in larger classes, but they also tend to be one to two months ahead in content knowledge, and they score higher on standardized tests.

Con: You have little to no social life

When you push through your course load, you miss out on the other great things about college, such as extracurricular activities and study abroad programs. Remember, employers look for technical and leadership skills—so it benefits students to gain the latter through campus clubs related to their field of study, or sports teams. But it’s hard to have time for anything other than the books when you’re on the fast track to graduation—and that includes a social life.

“Students should keep in mind that summer classes are still classes, and it may sometimes feel like you’re not getting a real ‘break,’ which summer is supposed to be,” says Allison Boudreau, who graduated early from Emerson College in December 2012. “If you have a really stressful academic year, it may be better for you to take the summer [off] and give yourself time to recharge.”

Pro: You get a head start on the job hunt

Students who finish their degrees early get dibs on the job market ahead of spring graduates. Williams points out that graduating early can be a strong indicator to future employers that you are organized and have a proven work ethic. It tells the employer you can do a lot of work quickly and becomes a point of distinction that you can draw between yourself and other candidates.

“Employers will consider an array of factors,” says Williams, “and graduating early is one more feather in your hat that can help you stand out.”

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