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Summer after Freshman Year?

  1. Dec 8, 2013 #1
    What is the best possible way to use the summer after freshman year? I have these options currently:
    1) Enroll in a summer session at my university.
    2) Enroll in a summer session at a different university.(Is this worth it?)
    3) Apply for a summer REU

    For reference, I am a physics major (also looking at EE/other engineering majors though)
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2013 #2
    Summer courses are good because they help you get ahead on your degree a bit. But unless you're in a rush to finish your degree, I would go for the research experience if you can. It will give you some idea of whether you like research or not, it's good experience to have on your resume, and if it's like my school, you'll at least get paid around minimum wage (better than nothing...).

    If you're going to do courses, I would try to take math courses if you can. I find physics/engineering courses tend to be easier when you know more math going into them.
  4. Dec 8, 2013 #3


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    Assuming you're not behind on your degree program a summer REU is valuable because it exposes you to a field and helps you decide what subfield of physics truly interest you and what you can expect to be doing if you decide to pursue such field.

    As for summer courses at a different university, it isn't a bad idea if the courses are cheaper and your university accepts them for credit. I did this for a good chunk of my general education requirements and linear algebra! However, I was rushed to finish my degree so taking classes every semester was more important to me than research experience.
  5. Dec 8, 2013 #4


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    There's no "best" possible way to use your summer. Each of those options is constructive and will give you some benefits, but also incur some costs.

    Generally speaking, that first year isn't so critical to getting research experience. It's okay if you can get it, of course, but I wouldn't worry too much of the opportunity isn't there.

    Taking a course(s) isn't a bad idea either, depending on what kinds of student you are. Some students need that summer break. Others suffer if they have it because four months away from their major turns their brains to mush. So you may want to ask yourself how much you think you need that break. Will you benefit from the condensed, intensive format of a summer course, or will this just lead to burn out?

    Other major factors are money and general work experience. If you can find a reasonably decent summer job, that can really help to eliminate your student debt load. Also, when you do eventually get out into the working world, those summer experiences can really help you to decide what it is you want to do, give you networking opportunities, and real-world experience to draw on.
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