With the May 2-4 weekend behind us and temperatures routinely hovering in the middle 20s, Ontario students look ahead to those annual months of fun, sun, socializing and excitement. Dips at the cottage, lazy weekdays at the mall, family vacations, camps, bike rides, Canada Day fireworks – the whole nine yards. But among those electrifying, leisurely activities, many Ontario students gear up for another annual rite of passage: Summer school.
“Survival” might be a strong word for working your way through summer school. Yes, there are uphill challenges with attending high school courses over the traditional summer break. (How are you expected to study when the weather’s this nice!?). But summer school also carries its fair share of advantages. It allows students to work ahead in their courses for an easier upcoming academic year, retake courses for a better grade on their transcript, and develop an effective hedge against summer learning loss.
If you’re gearing up for a summer that includes education, OES has your guide. We’ll answer a few frequently asked questions about our online summer school courses to ensure that you feel prepared and empowered. Then, we’ll explore tips and strategies for successful summer learning.
Bring on the sunshine and summer learning.
Your Summer School FAQs, Answered
Summer school has this strange mythology that follows it. On the one hand, movies often depict it as a slow, grinding obligation – the camera panning in on a student in a stuffy classroom, gazing out the window at peers playing in the sun. On the other, it has a reputation for being challenging, rigorous and demanding.
We’re here to smash those summer school myths, and answer a few administrative questions along the way. Here are a few questions we hear a lot from OES students, and the answers we give in return.
What Is Summer School?
Let’s begin with the basics. Summer school is exactly how it sounds: academic courses, completed around July and August, that count toward your Ontario high school credits.
Traditionally, students completed these courses in brick-and-mortar educational institutions. And they attended class as they normally would throughout the year – with an entry bell at around eight and a final bell at around three. It’s this traditional, rigorous schedule that gave rise to the misconceptions surrounding summer school.
Thankfully, pioneering online schools like OES have kicked the experience into the 21st Century. With our online high school courses, students can complete summer school from the comfort of… wherever they feel most comfortable. It’s flexible enough to accommodate a typical summer social schedule. And the self-paced nature of the courses gives students the freedom to learn at their chosen speed.
How Does Summer School Work?
How does summer school work? It works like any other course. Students enroll in their courses (see below). They typically satisfy course requirements on an abbreviated schedule (again, see below). And then they get a shiny new credit on their transcript.
The process might look slightly different depending on why you’re taking summer courses. Students may choose to get ahead with summer school courses by levelling up, in which case they will take a full course for the first time. Or, they may retake a previously completed class with an “upgrade course” to amend an unsatisfactory grade. Upgrade courses are shortened versions of previously completed courses, which give students a second chance to improve a mark on their transcript.
Finally, grade 8 students looking ahead to their big high school debut can take grade 9 summer courses as part of the “reach ahead program.”
How Long Is Summer School?
Compared to courses throughout the September-June academic year, summer school courses are usually brisker. Throughout Ontario, summer courses often follow a shortened schedule: half days for roughly four weeks. (Because of the tight schedule, a portion of the course material is often combined.)
However, because OES courses are self-paced, a student may choose to complete their courses in less or more time. For instance, if a student is eager to finish quickly (maybe they have an August European vacation lined up with the family), they can work at an athletic pace, studying for whole days and spending the odd late-night study session preparing for finals. Conversely, a student who wants wide open flexibility throughout the summer break may choose to take longer, freeing up days for socializing, working, cottaging, etc.
How long is summer school online? The short answer is: It’s up to you.
When Can You Apply for Summer School?
When we advertise that it’s “Never Too Late to Enroll,” we mean it. Because OES’s courses are asynchronous, we don’t require fixed start and end dates. Students can enroll anytime they want, provided they can clear the time during summer to satisfy their course requirements.
That said, students should consider applying relatively quickly. Our summer school courses are popular with both e-learners and brick-and-mortar school students!
How Do Students Enroll?
A lot of students ask us how to enroll in summer school. Thankfully, it’s an easy answer. From the “Our Courses” tab on OES’s homepage (at the top), you’ll see a dropdown menu containing the item “Summer School.” Clicking that tab leads you to an informative page detailing our summer school offerings.
Simply find the courses you want to take (and double-check that you have the grade level correct), click “Enroll” and then hit “Checkout” to pay the tuition fee. Once you’re enrolled, you’re free to start whenever you want.
Is Summer School Worth It?
In our article on the benefits of summer school courses online, we review in detail the merits of a summer school education. Students or parents searching for compelling reasons to attend summer school are encouraged to click the link provided.
But we understand that you’re busy soaking in the beautiful Ontario weather, so here are the talking points from that article:
- Summer courses let you work ahead: By devoting a small portion of your summer to online courses, you can get ahead. Some students get ahead to ensure a lighter fall semester (essentially sharing the load between summer, fall and spring), while others work ahead to complete high school quicker and graduate early.
- Summer courses give you a second chance at a better grade: As mentioned, summer upgrade courses are a fantastic way to beef up your transcript before applying to college or university.
- Summer courses prevent learning loss: Education experts warn against “summer learning loss,” a backslide in retention caused by the prolonged summer learning absence. But you can keep your brain sharp and educational momentum going with summer courses.
- Online summer courses are flexible enough that you won’t miss a thing: FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, but you won’t suffer it with online courses. OES’s courses are flexible enough for you to enjoy a normal summer.
Before enrolling in online summer courses, consider the points above. Have a family discussion, talk it through, and weigh the advantages of doing some light schoolwork over the summer holidays.
Strategies for a Successful Summer School Stint
We couldn’t resist an alliterative mouthful. But poetic flair aside, these “success strategies for a summer school stint” should help you get the most out of your courses.
Below, we tackle wide-ranging topics – from general tips for summer school to advice on how to balance studies with summer fun. Refer to this resource after you enroll, and check back in occasionally to ensure that you’re on track for a fruitful semester.
Set Your SMART Summer Goals
We recommend goal-setting as a positive, structured way to begin any semester – summer included. The best goals to set are SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed.
Start by clearly delineating your goals (i.e., “I want to complete grade 11 science this summer,” or “I want to achieve a B+ or higher in my upgrade English course”). Make sure you have some way to measure the outcome (e.g., you can measure a course completion; you can’t measure “understanding physics.”). Be reasonable with your goals to ensure they’re within the realm of achievement (an A-plus in U-level grade 12 math is pretty challenging, for instance!). Find the personal relevance in your goals (“I’m upgrading Grade 12 English so I can get into a good pre-doctoral program at university,” for example). And finally, put a projected, semi-flexible end date on your goal (i.e., “I want to finish this summer course before my family vacay in Mexico this August).
Strike a Balance Between Summer Fun and Studies
Once you have your goals in order, set some informal goals about balancing fun and studies. Remember, it’s still the summer – it should, at least in part, be a time of leisure, memory-making and excitement.
These goals can be specific. For instance, you might resolve to spend at least three afternoons watching a Jays Game at Rogers Centre, or resolve to make each of your friends’ summer birthday parties. Or these goals can be general in nature. You might set a goal to get some exercise this summer, learn a new skill or open yourself up to a new relationship.
Make a Detailed Agenda with School and Non-Scholastic Events
How do you orchestrate this complex web of schoolwork, social events, personal aspirations, work shifts and familial obligations? You do it with a detailed agenda.
Before your course starts, make a note of every event – school-related and otherwise. On the non-scholastic end, these might include work shifts, family trips, birthday parties, concerts, sports games, etc. On the school side, these events include assignment deadlines, a breakdown of chapters to study, test dates, etc.
Your non-scholastic activities are fixed – there’s no changing a work shift or birthday. Luckily, your online school activities are flexible, and you can easily slot them around your other obligations. By punching everything into a digital calendar or workflow app, you ensure there’s time for everything.
Oh, and while you’re at it, pencil in some time to just relax!
Why Not Work Outside?
“I understand the value of summer school, but I can’t miss the good weather,” you might tell yourself. Thankfully, it’s not an either/or situation. If you want to soak in some rays while you study, we encourage you to do so. Find a quiet spot in your backyard, a public park or library courtyard.
Not only do sunshine and fresh air feel like summer, but studies show they help elevate cognitive function, which is a nice little boost in those challenging course units.
Find Peers in a Similar Summer Trajectory
Summer school is popular among Ontario students, meaning you’re likely to find students in a similar trajectory – whether it’s students your age working ahead, or students taking an upgrade course. Consider spearheading a study group to compare notes, study for tests and bounce ideas for assignments.
For Upgrade Courses: Review Before You Start
If you’re taking upgrade courses like MHF4U or ENG4U, there’s no need to start from square one. Presumably, you still have a wealth of notes, old assignments and tests from which to pull information. Consider reviewing these materials before you start your upgrade course. Read through old math problems you completed (even the ones you got wrong) or read old thesis statements for books you read. You might be surprised what some “memory jogging” can do for your academic performance!
Understand Your Avenues for Help
Lastly, before you begin summer school, acquaint yourself with OES’ student resources. For starters, you have this blog (the one you’re currently reading), which contains a wealth of guides, tips and course information; you can navigate posts by typing keywords into the blog search bar.
Next – and most importantly – you have your experienced, dedicated and knowledgeable teachers. They are your first line of defence when you don’t understand something. They are willing and ready to coach you through concepts, clarify course requirements, and offer advice.
And finally, OES is proud to include 24/7 tutoring services in all its online courses. If you’re in a jam late at night, you can reach out to a tutor for explanation.
We applaud your choice to attend summer school – whether to work ahead, upgrade your marks or prevent summer learning loss. And we look forward to participating in your summer success this year.