St. Olaf College | News

Studying through the summer

St. Olaf students (from left) Dhriti Mukhopadhyay ’15 and Kelsey Okuno ’14 work on a lab assignment as part of the organic chemistry course they’re taking this summer.

While many of his fellow students packed their bags to leave campus for the summer, Spencer Castillo ‘16 simply settled down in his favorite study spot in the library and hit the textbooks.

“I’m taking organic chemistry over the summer because I want to make good use of my time while taking care of a demanding class that counts toward my major,” Castillo says.

The average student strives to make the most out of their time on the Hill. More often than not, this means squeezing in concentrations, study-abroad programs, internships, research opportunities, and distinction projects on top of a major or two. With general education requirements to meet and multiple areas of interest to explore before graduation, accomplishing everything while still finding time to sleep seems daunting.

“Students have many goals for their four years on campus,” says Dean and Provost of the College Marci Sortor. “It can be difficult to fit it all in. Summer sessions help students manage their time so as to realize those goals.”

By offering a rich variety of courses across disciplines, summer classes help students meet their needs and goals, whether that means filling a GE credit or finishing up a major. They also provide an opportunity to explore a topic that captures the imagination.  Alongside popular choices like organic chemistry, summer course topics range from psycholinguistics to ceramics, with everything —including  Zen and the Art of Judo — in between.

Whatever the case, a summer class at St. Olaf is a rewarding experience. Besides class sizes averaging around 12 students and reduced tuition fees, taking fewer courses gives students the chance to focus their energies and invest their time completely in the topic of their choice.

“Taking a summer course offers a unique educational experience,” says Castillo. “I’m able to put plenty of time and energy into it and gain a greater understanding of the material as opposed to taking it during the school year. I also like that I have enough time over the weekend to study for the exams.”

All of these reasons and more influenced Justina Stern ’14 to enroll in Ethics of Jesus with Associate Professor of Religion James Hanson ’83.

“Summer school is an excellent opportunity to really dig into the class you are taking. I chose to take my class this summer so that I could really digest and reflect on what I was learning,” she says. “Not to mention how beautiful the Hill and Northfield are during the summer.”