Top tips for choosing a summer school
Summer schools are the perfect way to spend a summer holiday enriching yourself, making new friends, learning new skills, and exploring new horizons.
Many students attend summer schools to get a feel for a subject that they want to study at university, others go to learn languages and some simply want to spend time studying a subject they have always loved.
So, instead of the traditional family holiday this year, why not look into the wide range of summer schools that are available across the world?
We are going to take a look at some top tips to help you choose a summer school that is perfect for you.
What are the top tips for choosing a summer school?
When choosing a summer school for you (or your child) to attend you should consider the subject you want to study, where you want to study, the type of programme you want, and the language of instruction on the course, amongst other variables. That way you can be sure to choose the perfect programme and that you will get the most out of your time on the course.
There are summer schools to choose from all over the world in subjects vastly ranging from creative writing to coding, medicine to robotics.
So let’s jump in and take a look at some top tips for choosing a summer school.
Think about the subject you want to study
Perhaps the most important factor when choosing a summer school is considering the subject you actually want to study during your time there. Some programmes teach you specific skills such as languages or computer coding, whereas others give you a general introduction to a subject that can be beneficial in helping you decide whether you want to pursue that subject at university.
In either case, you should look for programmes at summer schools that are going to enrich and educate you in a field you want to explore. The location of the course, the package it includes, and the new friends you make along the way are all integral to your experience, but your first consideration should be, what subject do I want to immerse myself in this summer? They are called summer schools after all!
Ask yourself, why?
Before choosing a summer school it is good to have a clear idea why exactly you want to attend one. Do you want to immerse yourself in a summer session at a university and explore a subject that you want to study in the future? Perhaps you want to learn a new language? Maybe you prefer to attend typical summer camps but you are now looking for one with an educational element? Or you might just be looking for something enriching to do while you explore a new city?
Whatever your reasoning, knowing why you want to attend a summer school and what you hope to get out of it is a good way of narrowing your options and finding a programme that fits perfectly into your plans.
Find out the language of instruction
Another key consideration you need to take into account when choosing a summer school is the language of instruction on the course. You may want to study abroad to brush up on your language skills, but there is little point in studying for a course in a language you do not understand – unless the course in question is a language course.
There is a delicate balance to be struck here. Many students choose to study summer programmes in the UK, for example, because they want to develop their English. But it is equally important that their English is good enough that they get the most out of their course as well.
A good summer school takes students from all over the world, but you want to make sure that you are likely to be at a similar level to your cohort so you can learn from them as well as your tutors. If you want to study at a summer school that teaches in a foreign language, it may be worth spending a bit of time practising your speaking, reading, and writing skills in that language before it begins.
Check the age brackets
Some summer schools are open to all students over a certain age while others have specific age brackets. Of course, if the programme you want to apply for has age brackets you must first make sure that you are within the right age group.
But it is also a good idea to inquire about the ages of the students if there is no age bracket. For example, if a language course says it is for all students aged 16+ and you are considerably older than 16, you may want to ensure that it isn’t going to be predominantly filled with 16-year-olds or students who have only just finished university. While it can be good to have a diverse age range of students, people usually prefer to be included in a group that is at both a similar life stage and education ability.
Research the location
The location of the summer school is what draws many students to certain programmes. The country the school is in is, of course, an important factor, but the city and the site in which the school is situated are also integral to the overall experience. Some schools may advertise their location in a famous city as part of their pitch but, in reality, they are based on the outskirts of the city with poor transport connections for travelling in.
When choosing a summer school you should research the exact location of both the accommodation (if it is included) and the teaching spaces. It is always good to be as close as possible to the sights of the city you are in, but if the school is a bit further out make sure the transport links are good.
Find out what is included in the package
Summer schools range from online programmes led by universities to weeks-long residential stays that include food, board, and cultural excursions.
There is no right or wrong answer here and it is up to you as to what you want to get out of your summer school experience, but it is good to check that the fees match the package. If a summer school only includes classes and costs nearly as much as one that also includes meals and accommodation, then either the former is too expensive or the latter will be cutting corners somewhere else.
So always do your research before committing to a school to ensure that it offers everything you expect for a reasonable price.
Check the accommodation
If you have made the decision to go to a residential summer school, make sure you check what the accommodation is actually like! There is nothing worse than paying for a big trip and then arriving to find the accommodation is well below the standard you expected.
The summer school’s website should have pictures of the accommodation if it is residential. Failing that, you can email ahead and ask for a description or photographs from the programme’s accommodation officer.
Look up the tutors
The best summer programmes have qualified tutors who are either highly experienced teachers or highly experienced professional practitioners. If the summer school you choose to attend is at a university, check that there are faculty members teaching the courses. These may be fully-fledged academics or current PhD students.
If you are learning a language as part of your programme, check the language teaching qualifications of the staff. Make sure that they are accredited educators with recognised qualifications for language teaching. A good teacher can be the difference between an average course and a great course, so check who they are beforehand. You should be able to find the details of the teaching staff on the summer school’s website, or you can email ahead and ask the admin team who they have booked to teach that year.
Contact past students
If you feel that you are still unsure about a summer school you have been researching, why not try contacting other students from previous years who attended the same summer school?
You can ask them about their overall summer school experience, what they thought of the city, and what they learnt from the course. You should be able to find a contact by searching the summer school’s social media pages.
Attending the right summer school guarantees you an unforgettable summer. But with so many summer school options available, students can feel spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a summer programme. You can study languages, science, literature, art, engineering, history, politics, and many more disciplines in some of the most famous cities in the world.
So before you decide upon where and what to study and to make sure you get the most out of your course, be sure to follow our tips so that you choose the right course for you.