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To Attend Summer School or Not? That Is the Question.

Summer school . . . the words ignite collective groans from students in every city in America. Rarely is anything so dreaded as the thought of having to give up summer for another classroom. Who, in fact, would be willing to do that? Would you attend summer school? Should you? Wait! Before you roll your eyes and answer, "No way," there's something you should know: Summer school isn't what it used to be.

Most of us conjure up visions of a hot stuffy classroom or a teacher droning on and one while we imagine our friends at the pool relaxing because they've already completed Algebra I. Typical summer school programs offered through high school do exist, and if you need this type of education to graduate from high school then stop thinking about it! Better two months in a classroom to make up a course than another year of high school! And, if you don't want to be held in the confines of a classroom on a gorgeous summer day, some online high schools offer courses year-round.

Consider pursuing your passion through summer classes

But if you're considering summer school as a way to help you hone your interests (and beef up your college app), then you might be pleasantly surprised at the types of programs that are available. Are you a singer or dancer? Check out the Tisch School of the Arts Summer High School. Interested in science? Check out the Autonomous Robotic Vehicles course at UNC Charlotte's Camps on Campus or Michigan Tech's explorations program. If you've got a passion, there's a program out there for you--ask your guidance counselor about options near you. Summer school can be fun, interesting, and a great way to meet others who share your interests.

On-campus summer schools offer a glimpse into college life

Summer school is also a great way to get an insider's look at college life. Once such program is Columbia University's Summer Program for High School Students in New York City, where you can live in dorms on campus and take courses from university professors. Attending a program like this can give you insights into what your life will look like after high school. D.J. Germano, in his testimonial about his experience in 2010, said, "My weeks at Columbia were transformational. I realized what college life would be all about and now feel better prepared to make the big leap to college next September."

If you're wondering if summer school can help you gain admission to college, then you might be surprised at the answer. The College Board, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on helping students succeed in college, indicates on its website that "attending a challenging summer school program can increase your chances of getting into a competitive college." Aniya Atasuntsevsa, 20, a junior at New York University, attended one of these programs at Brown University before her senior year of high school. "I think it did help me get into college," she said. "Universities saw I was engaged and ready for a college level education." There's also a boost to your college application. "At the end of the course the professor writes you a recommendation, which I included with my college applications," she said.

Cost of summer school, in time and money

Of course, when considering whether to go to summer school, there are two other important factors that you must take into account: time and money. Summer school programs run from a week at a time (Michigan Tech) to up to seven weeks (Brown). Courses run from four hours a day (Columbia) up to six hours a day (Brown). And the days are longer if you're a resident at a campus as opposed to commuting there.

Do you have the time and inclination to give up that much of your summer? And even if you do, can you afford it? Michigan Tech costs about $450 as a commuter and $795 as live-in, while Columbia's program is $3,896 for a 3-week session and an additional $3,035/session to be a residential student. And depending on how long a course you take at Brown, it can cost up to $9,697 as a residential student! But don't despair if these prices are out of your league. Almost every program offers scholarships for those who demonstrate financial need and academic merit.

So is summer school worth it? "It was an amazing experience overall," said Atasuntsevsa of her time at Brown. Summer school can be a fabulous summer alternative for jump-starting your college career and providing you with new friends who share your passions. Only you can decide if it's the right choice for you!