I’m swamped. I have four papers, each more than six pages, due in the next week-and-a-half and a final the week after that. But what keeps me going through the constant pressure and sleep deprivation is the thought of summer break just around the corner. I can almost taste it. As I type frantically away at my laptop, I console myself by conjuring up visions of my summer plans in my mind. I’m finally going to finish “Robinson Crusoe,” buy a new bathing suit so I can lounge by the pool to get a foxy tan and visit my older sister in Florida. It’s going to be a sweet, relaxing summer straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

Oh, yeah. And I’m going to take a class this summer here at the University. I’m actually kind of psyched about it.

Yes, I know I was just complaining about school — it’s my prerogative as a (very busy) college student, just like it’s yours. Yes, I know that taking classes during the summer is a total drag for most people. But learning is my passion. And I think that summer classes are actually better than classes during the regular year in some ways.

The University offers three terms during the time that most students are away. There’s spring term, which will last from May 3 to June 25 for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts this year. Then there’s summer term from June 29 to Aug. 20, and finally spring/summer term, which stretches across the spring and summer terms. That gives students a lot of scheduling options.

There are also a fair amount of classes available. The College of LSA expanded the amount and type of classes it offers over spring and summer semesters last year in response to increased demand from students. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of students enrolling for a full schedule during spring and summer terms increased by 9 percent, according to a June 15 report by The Ann Arbor News. According to the article, many students are taking more summer classes in order to fulfill requirements for double majors or to compensate for studying abroad.

I’m taking a class this summer so that I’ll be able to finish up all of my major and certification minor requirements by the end of the fall 2010 semester so that I can spend winter 2011 student teaching. And this isn’t my first time. Last year, I took six credits during spring term and four during summer term. This year, I’m taking a measly three credits during summer term. And I’m looking forward to it.

That’s because I think that summer courses can give students some opportunities that they don’t get during the regular school year. For one, most students have a lighter workload. And summer classes have a less intense atmosphere that takes off some of the pressure. These factors allow students to learn without feeling like the stakes are so high.

And class sizes are smaller by default, which makes access to the professor easier. My experience last summer taught me that this can be great. I took two two-credit courses with my favorite teacher here at the University, Professor Douglas Trevor, an associate professor of early modern literature in the English Department. I’d already taken classes taught by him twice during the regular school year, but they’d been lectures. I pretty much love this guy, so the opportunity to interact with him in a much smaller, more personal setting was enlightening. I learned a ton about the incredibly dense and pedantic John Milton (the poet who wrote “Paradise Lost”, for you non-English majors) — way more than I think I would have in a large lecture.

Granted, spring and summer classes can also be intensive. Many condense a four-credit course usually taught in 14 weeks into 7 weeks. That means longer class periods and much more information to be absorbed in a short amount of time. I took History 240, the World Since 1492 (which, you may recall, is the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue), last spring. Class was three hours long, and there was one day that we covered 150 years in three countries in a single class period. By the end, my brain was numb.

But for the most part, I think the good outweighs the bad. The laid-back atmosphere of classes and the chance to interact more closely with professors make classes a great way for a nerd like me to spend the summer.

So this summer as I’m lounging by the pool in my cute new suit, I’ll be reading the text for the history class in which I’m enrolled. But only after I get “Crusoe” out of the way.

Rachel Van Gilder is the Daily’s editorial page editor. She can be reached at rachelvg@umich.edu.

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