by Lauren Joffe

Taking summer college classes while your friends are kicking back at the beach? Ugh, can you say “buzzkill”? Whether you’re trying to improve a grade or get ahead, tackling summer classes might actually trump that sweet golden glow. Luckily, we’re servin’ up tips for surviving summer college classes so you can wipe your sweaty brow and go “whew!” before Labor Day.

Tactic No. 1: Look on the bright side

While it’s no picnic to sit through summer college classes while the sun shines on, keep a positive outlook. After all, summer school has some serious benefits that might actually outweigh your regular semester courses. Let’s check ’em out …

Take advantage of smaller class sizes offered over the summer.

Not only will you have a chance to bond with your professor more so than usual, but you will also get one-on-one teaching that just might boost that GPA.

Elective courses that book up during the year are now at your disposal.

Yes, summer school offers many of the same classes (or more interesting ones!) over the summer to entice students to return. If you’re taking summer classes to get ahead, now’s your chance to take that elective you just can’t live without.

Tackle tough classes while you don’t have a crazy course load.

Organic chem is no blast, but taking it over the summer means one less hassle during the regular semester. Says Duke University senior Troy Wickett, “I did summer school in the first session last summer. I’m an econ major and wanted to finish my math requirement because it’s a really time-consuming class. I didn’t want it to bring my grades down while I took other hard classes.”

Tactic No. 2: Take solid notes

Summer class times typically last several hours, so it’s easier to be tempted to give in to that midclass snooze. However, taking good notes will help you stay on task.

“Because classes are longer during the summer, my attention would drift off, especially toward the end. Bringing my computer to class was the best decision I made because typing for a few hours straight is much easier than handwriting everything,” says rising New York University senior Laura Smart.

Retaking a class because you didn’t do so hot the first time around? Studying off of or working to revise your old notes might help you zero in on what you misunderstood or failed to retain the last time around. This can help you reflect on poor performance and approach the class with a leg up.

Tactic No. 3: Get an “A” for attendance

Sure, it’s usually fine to occasionally cut out on a class over a semester-long course. But in summer school? Not so much. Since instructors have to jam the same amount of info into an abbreviated time frame, missing out on just one lecture can mean sacrificing the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of notes.

Says New York University professor Eugene Secunda, “Summer classes are far more demanding than regular semester classes. Because of the shorter duration of the semester, it is necessary to intensify the program. This puts a much greater demand on students to focus and attend every session.”

Is it worth it to cut out for a few hours of beach volleyball? Um, no! Stay motivated by rewarding yourself with little treats. Want to chill with an iced frappuccino? It’s yours … after class.

Tactic No. 4: Beat beach-envy blues

While your nose is in a book, your BFF is probably jamming to tunes on the beach. Instead of wallowing in jealousy, make new friends with people in your classes or study groups and immerse yourself in your college’s culture, town and student body.

“Surrounding yourself with students who are in the same boat makes it so much easier as opposed to being around friends who are running to the beach every morning. When I took a summer course at NYU, it was so much easier to focus because I wasn’t constantly tempted by friends begging me to ditch class,” says Smart.

Tactic No. 5: Kill two birds …

Sure, you’re still in study mode -- but don’t forget to carve out some time to relax. No need to stash those swim trunks away for the entire sunny season. You can be productive while lolling poolside. Instead of tossing a trashy paperback in your beach bag, bring along class readings or light assignments. Crack down during the week, but save the easy stuff for the lounge chair instead of becoming a permanent weekend fixture at the library.

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Surviving Summer College Classes