Advice on Summer science courses?

Do you think it’s smart to take physics or organic chem courses over the summer? Also, what do you think about the “mini-mester” type courses, i.e., it’s 3 or 4 credits in about 1 month before summer session, taking about 5 hours a day. The actual question is, for the entire summer, is taking 2 or 3 courses (with labs) practical? They would be taken sequentially; i.e., minimester, then summer 1, then summer 2.

From my personal experience organic chemistry is not a good idea in the summer. Organic chemistry is tough in a regular semester but shortened to a summer semester or even worse both sequences in the summer is just too fast. You won’t absorb what you need to absorb and won’t do well. Some people have done it, and done well in it, but I definitely am not one of them.
Physics, on the other hand, is totally doable depending on how hard your school makes the class (and aptitude of course). At my school we get a notecard where we can write anything and everything, and the exams are based completely off the lecture examples and homeworks so you can pretty much have everything you need for the exams on the notecard.
I’ve done a few minimesters so far. It really depends on the prof and the class. Typically they go a little easier on you cuz of the shortness of the class, but not always. The hard part is simply the amount of reading that will be crammed into each week. I took Biochem I this way, and loved it. We had an awesome prof, the book was readable, and the lectures notes were awesome. I ended up with a B in the class, but I was also taking a regular summer session of Orgo II + lab at the same time (which I didn’t survive very well btw).
As far as taking summer classes in general, taking anything sequentially so you end up with only 1 class per session, is totally doable provided you don’t have too many other obligations in your life.
good luck!


As far as taking summer classes in general, taking anything sequentially so you end up with only 1 class per session, is totally doable provided you don’t have too many other obligations in your life.

I agree with everything SkaterBabe has said but especially this part. When you’re considering summer session classes, remember that you still need to apply the rule of thumb - two hours outside class for every hour inside class. It seems that people taking summer sessions MUST make some adjustments in this “rule” because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do that, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that your main obligation will be the lecture and lab time - the time outside class will be HUGE.

I took the whole year of organic (w/labs) last year in an eight week session. I did well in it, but if I had to do it over again, I would have to think long and hard about it. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept organic. We had lecture from 9 - 12 M - F, and lab T,W,R from 1:30 - 5:30. We had at least one test and quiz every week in lecture, plus we had lab exams. There were days where after getting home from lab, I spent until 2 am working on lab reports and prelabs that were due the next day. Needless to say, that didn’t allow any time on those days to even review material covered in lecture that day, let alone prepare for the next day.
I definitely don’t feel that taking it this way allowed me time to really learn the material. I don’t feel like I remember hardly anything from organic. Fortunately for me, I took my organic final on Monday and the MCAT that Saturday, so enough of it stuck for me to do well on the MCAT.
I have to agree that physics would be much more doable. I think I would recommend organic this way only if it is your only option.

One class per session sounds pretty reasonable to me–just be sure you know what you’re getting into. It will be a lot of work!
I’d also say to stick with one subject, i.e. Organic 1, then Organic 2, or the same thing with physics. Don’t take one orgo class and then one physics class.
I’m not sure about the minimesters because my school didn’t offer those. Do they provide enough credit and lab hours to qualify for prereq classes? Most med schools require that you take a certain number of credits in each subject.

I did physics I and II in 8 weeks. It was hard and I had to give up my summer almost entirely, since ALL I did was physics. Of course, I had NO background, and had not had the calc prereq, so I was at a slight disadvantage. I did do well, though, and learned a lot. It really is about what you can handle personally, and what you are willing to give up. I missed my summer with the kids and know I would not have wanted to do both the summer classes and the minimester. Like others said, just make sure you know what you are getting yourself into!

I took Cell Biology and biochemistry as summer courses and they were fine (no labs). I personally wouldn’t take anything with a lab as a summer course- I don’t think there’s enough time to absorb everything. I took some physics and histology (with labs) as summer courses and this didn’t work well for me. It just felt too compressed.