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The benefits and challenges of intensive summer programs

Get the facts on taking an advanced college course.

students writing test or exam in lecture at school

Many summer intensive programs are designed for graduate students, but some also accept upper-year undergraduates. These programs are taught by several experts – including academics and practitioners – rather than by one professor. Some of these experts are academics (from a variety of disciplines) and some were practitioners.

Universities organize some of these programs and others are organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Your university and/or department might have a list of such summer programs or institutes.


Experience another campus. If a university organizes an intensive program, they likely specialize in that field, so you might want to attend a program at an institution to which you might apply for a post-graduate degree or diploma. During the program, you will meet faculty and get a sense of the campus’ resources. You might even be able to meet a potential supervisor.

Get experience abroad. This can be a more affordable way to study abroad instead of completing a whole year or degree abroad. There are still costs involved, however, and scholarships are rare.

Network. You will meet students, academics and practitioners from around the world who share your interests, allowing you to build a global network.

Specialize. These programs allow you to specialize in a particular field in only a few weeks. This can help you if you plan to pursue further study or work in that field.

Summer employment. With attending classes during the day and reading course materials or preparing for presentations during the evening, you will not have time to work. It might be difficult to find summer employment that allows you to take one or two weeks off, but it is not impossible.

Transfer credits. Obtaining credit for the course can be challenging. Be sure to work out these details ahead of time, especially if you can only afford to take the course if you receive credit for it.

Visas. Depending on what country you live in, where the program is and what you’re studying, it might be difficult to obtain a visa. It is best to apply to these programs as early as possible because they tend to give international students quick responses so that they can obtain a visa.

Don’t over-commit. You might only be in the classroom for one or two weeks, but that does not mean that the program will only take one or two weeks of your time!

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