Summer time on campus is a whole new beast. The golden days of summer are rolling along and as the days heat up, campus culture shifts to accommodate the summer season. Graduate school in the summer time provides a unique series of pros and cons that ensure that it remains an interesting and distinct experience from other semesters.
I’ll split this into two parts, the cons and the perks. The cons will come first because it’s my theory that bumming everyone out and then cheering them up is preferable to the opposite.
– It’s harder to find funding in the summer. There are fewer classes being taught, so in general, the TA positions are few and far between. Also, given the structure of summer courses, working a summer session class is a different and wild experience.
– Is your research dependent on weather, students, or extensive use of the facilities? You might run into some problems! Facilities, especially ones that cater in large part to undergraduates, may have reduced hours or staff, especially states facing budget problems. Fields, such as psychology, which rely on data gathered from undergraduate participants, need to plan around the summer time dearth of students. Of course, these are all things that one can plan ahead for, but it’s something to consider that the type and amount of work may change throughout the year.
– There’s less structure. During the regular school year, even when graduate students are no longer taking classes, there are seminars, meetings, and other activities to give structure to the day. Graduate school can feel remarkably unstructured otherwise, which for some people can be pretty stressful and unpleasant. Trying to create a summer time structure is possible, but it takes work, and may involve looking outside of academia for activities.
– The bagel place is only open until early afternoon! What is this? I need my bagel fix any time, any place. The nerve!
OK, now that I’ve made everyone think about how terrible the summer can be, let’s talk about the perks:
– Fewer people on campus. Generally, there are fewer people around because there are fewer undergrads. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really, genuinely like undergraduates and interacting with undergraduates. They’re fresh and engaged. However, any time I don’t need to wade through a buzzing, confusing mass of inexperienced bicyclists just to get to the coffee is a good time. There are fewer lines for food, better parking spots, and a general empty air that can be really refreshing.
– Everyone is feeling just a little bit more relaxed. There are more professors rocking jeans and loosey-goosey peasant tops. Graduate students and post-docs who are punctual during the year show up just a little late in the summer. Yes, there’s still pressure to get the work done, but there’s a nice easy feeling, like, if it’s going to be summer, you might as well try and enjoy some of it.
How about you? How does the summer semester/quarter feel different for you? Does it feel different? What do you like or dislike about it?