An Alumna’s Perspective – Summer Study at Duke

Author name
Audrey Fenske, T’09
student kissing Blue Devil mascot
From my first year at Duke!

Current Duke students, you have had to deal with an unprecedented semester in an unpredictable world. I know some of you may be navigating some change in your summer plans, which unfortunately may include some shifts in your internships or other summer jobs. You may be wondering if taking some summer courses at Duke is a good idea or not. Although it may not have been your first choice, I want you to consider why taking a summer course or two at Duke might be an excellent idea.

  1. You can get those requirements out of the way.

I was a Dance and Psychology double major at Duke, and absolutely loved every course I took in both of those programs. Math scared the heck out of me – I withdrew from a math course two weeks into my first year at Duke, and was absolutely terrified of math at Duke after that. The summer before my senior year, I still had 2 required Quantitative Studies credits looming over my head. As I was browsing future course offerings one day, I noticed a Summer Session II course for Statistics in Psychology – a class that would conveniently knock out one of those QS requirements as well as count toward my major.

Academically, this was a perfect choice for me. And the benefit of just doing one course meant I could really double down my studying efforts. Which leads me to my next point …

  1. You can focus on just one or two classes rather than four.

I don’t need to tell you how busy you are – I know it! Taking just one or two classes during the summer, however, means you can really manage your time and focus effectively to give those classes your full effort. The class will be a bit accelerated since it needs to wrap up in fewer weeks than a fall or spring semester course, but I found that the fast pace actually made me focus even more. With only one or two classes to balance, you can really map out an effective study strategy to make the best use of your time.

I knew a math class was going to take a lot of extra effort for me, so only taking one course that summer was the best decision for me. I had a lot of classmates who did more than one course during the summer, however, and they still found it very manageable.

There were also fewer distractions without club meetings and other extracurriculars – I didn’t feel like I was being pulled in ten different directions, which was how I often felt during the fall and spring.

  1. You still feel connected to Duke – and that’s a great thing.

I remember agonizing over what to do the summer after my first year at Duke (pro tip – visit the Career Center for help with figuring out these questions). I finally asked myself a serious question – what community did I see myself really thriving in for a summer? The answer was clear to me – Duke! My classes at Duke challenged me, and my peers motivated me. I knew spending some extra time with my Duke community would be great for me not just academically, but mentally as well. I signed up for a French course (again, knocking out a requirement), which ended up being my favorite of the three semesters of French that I took, and where I met a couple of great people that I remain friends with to this day.

I know the upcoming summer sessions will look a little different, but I would think that taking an online course might be one of the best ways to stay connected to Duke during a time when connection to our communities is so important for our wellbeing.

  1. Taking a summer course is not better or worse than completing an internship.

Taking a summer course rather than doing an internship is not going to disrupt your career goals. Every student I knew in 2006-2009 who took summer courses is employed today, despite a recession occurring at a very unfortunate time for us. And if you need some more advice on how summer study can fit into your career development plans, you can always schedule an appointment with an adviser at the Career Center ( They will be happy to work with you!

Duke has really amped up their summer course offerings – I encourage you to visit to learn more. And while you’re staying connected to your Duke community this summer, don’t forget that the Career Center is available for you too! Advisers can meet with you over the phone, on Skype, or on Zoom, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

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