Summer student Cynthia Rojo with cityscape in background

Summer in the city: Why this student made Summer Session a tradition

May 20, 2019

Better grades, lower stress and no lines for lattes? Who wouldn’t roll with Summer Session?

Cynthia Rojo certainly has, missing only one session since she completed a Pre-Collegiate Academic Outreach summer program at CU Denver more than three years ago.

Having a taste of college life with a best friend right out of high school sold the Denver native on the urban university, which she chose to help fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. But it also started a summer tradition.

“You can pretty much get through Starbucks without a line,” Rojo said with a grin, referring to the coffee shop in the Tivoli Student Union that can amass a line in the fall that rivals airport security. “There’s fewer people,” she said of the campus. “It’s less hectic.”

Lattes aside, as Rojo looks toward her final year before earning her bachelor’s degree from the School of Education & Human Development (SEHD), the future Elementary Education teacher shared her reasons for being a summer-class fan.

Cynthia Rojo is working on her laptop while sitting on a rock.
Cynthia Rojo takes summer classes to help her graduate on time and reduce the amount of coursework during the fall and spring semesters.

Summer classes: ‘They take the load off’

Carrying a full credit load every semester to meet a graduation goal can be tough, especially when Rojo works part-time for her mother’s cleaning business and teaches a class of Denver Public School second-graders through the NxtGEN Teacher Residency program.

“I feel like that’s the biggest thing to take from this – that they (summer classes) take the load off during the regular school year,” said Rojo, a first-generation student.

While she’s now on a solid track to graduating in Spring 2020, Rojo still signed up for an anthropology class and lab this summer for two other common reasons students take the off-season courses.

“One is just simply to be ahead and have that less-overwhelmed feeling during the semester,” she said. For some students, summer session can help them graduate earlier, so they can begin their careers and earn money.

“All of the times I’ve taken summer courses, my GPA has been much higher compared to the semester before. I’m more focused.”

– Cynthia rojo, Elementary education major

A time for tackling a hard (or popular) class

The other reason (also common) is to take a requirement that she struggled with while carrying a full load: It’s her second attempt at the anthropology course.

“I had to drop it, because it was really hard for me to take it with my internship,” Rojo said. “The coursework was difficult, so I decided to take it during the summer, so I could focus on that class.”

With fewer students competing, summer-session students also often can get into classes that might be crowded during fall and spring semesters.

And with the lighter student numbers, professors even have more time to help their students, Rojo said. “There’s more attention directed to you. You get more one-on-one support, and office hours are more available.”

Cynthia Rojo
Cynthia Rojo plans to graduate in Spring 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.

As the thermometer rises, so do the grades

With all of that focus, some students view summer session as a grade-point-average booster. “It definitely is,” Rojo said. “All of the times I’ve taken summer courses, my GPA has been much higher compared to the semester before. I’m more focused.”

While summer classes often pack a regular curriculum into a shorter period of time, the shortened versions can also increase retention and improve grades, Rojo said.

“I also did a Maymester psychology class one year, and I loved it,” she said. “Psychology is something I’m very interested in, so the moving quickly felt like it was at my pace. It was heavy content, but I was retaining more information. I was able to understand more of what was on the test.”

Taking a summer class or two also keeps the brain sharp, Rojo said. “The summer I missed I definitely felt out of the routine when I came back in the fall. It keeps you in the mode.”

Cynthia Rojo walks towards CU Denver campus.
Cynthia Rojo, a veteran of Summer Session, said she enjoys the quieter campus atmosphere during the summer.