Taking Summer Courses for the First Time

A little less than a month ago, I finished my first Summer term at UBC.

And oh my goodness was that a wild ride. Mistakes were definitely made; at often times life decisions were reevaluated with no improvement in sight.

After hearing many stories of 4th years in science rushing to finish their 6 credit communications requirement (Basically English and writing courses of some sort), I didn’t want to be that upper year stuck in a room with 29 1st years, so I decided that I would finish my communications requirement as soon as possible. I didn’t take an English course in first term, and I took Scie 113 (that course made me feel many conflicting emotions that weren’t good) in term 2, so I chose to take English 112 in May.

Being the crazy person that I was, and partially being influenced by my equally crazy and delusional peers, I thought taking 1 course at a time, downgrading from the 5-6 courses I took at a time during the winter term, was kind of an underwhelming course load. (Mistake #1: Thinking 1 core course in the Summer is too little. Past Katie was a very naive soul) I aimed to specialise in Biology, which I got into btw (yay me), so I needed to take the infamous Chem 233 – Introduction to Organic Chemistry. From multiple outlets I’ve heard that the prof teaching Chem 233 during the Summer, Jay Wickenden, was amazing, (which he is, he’s probably my favorite prof so far) and that it would be easier than taking it during the Winter. I had one of the earliest registration times for Summer courses, so I decided I would take Chem 233 and get it over with.

In the end, I took English 112 and Chemistry 233 during the 1st term of Summer.


I was ill prepared for how fast and intense Summer courses, (Mistake #2: I was very dumb and didn’t listen to the plethora of warnings and advice not to go overboard with Summer courses) and my work quality and marks were damaged significantly. Because of my poor judgement, my English 112 and Chem 233 marks are the two lowest marks I have out of all the courses I’ve taken so far. I’ve reasoned with myself that it’s because these two courses are meant to be more challenging anyway, but I know that I could’ve done much better had I known what to expect.

Aside from taking two classes, I continued to be crazy and decided to increase my work availability at my part-time job (Mistake #3: increasing work hours while taking two summer courses. Don’t do it.). One bad decision lead to another, I was taking classes from 9 am (ENGLISH AT NINE FREAKING A.M.) (Mistake #4 take a 9AM courses during the Summer) and ending at 2:50 pm on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, and working on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Basically what I did was completely remove most of the time I had available to study and muster up energy to stay awake and sane. It did not register in my mind that one 3-hour lecture during the Summer was basically a whole week’s worth of material during a Winter term. I quickly fell behind, and soon I was writing argumentative essays and cramming for OChem midterms simultaneously while bussing to work (Mistake 5# reading on the bus makes be dizzy). I did not assign enough time to prepare for each course, and that was my downfall.

In the end, I finished Eng112 and Chem233 with decent grades, but still much lower than what I wanted. I feel like if I had taken these two courses separately, one per term (like the plethora of advice suggested and I ignored hahaha why me why), I would have done much better and enjoyed my courses much more. This is more about Chem 233; I feel like I would’ve been miserable in English 112 no matter when I took it

[Side note about English 112: the course was called “Millennials in Love”, and we spent the whole course talking about different kinds of love, romantic, parental, familial love etc. For me, that was absolute torture. Also, technically, I’m not even a Millennial. All the essays and readings we had to do were about love, and that made it really hard for me to engage with the material without sounding incredibly cheesy. I already struggled with English courses and writing to begin with, and having the sole topic of love added on top of that, it was inevitable that English 112 is my lowest mark so far.]

Because of poor time management and having to go to work after classes, I usually ended up going to class incredibly tired. Lack of sleep added to me not eating properly from some reason made focusing in class really hard, so that also added to my two month struggle with OChem and English.

After this whole ordeal, I learned many things that I will keep in mind for the future.

  1. Taking two Summer courses at once can be incredibly risky. Maybe not if you’re taking an elective and a core course, but two core courses is definitely hard. Also, midterms usually happen around the same time since there’s so little time to distribute them.
  2. Sleep is very very very important.ย I haven’t been sleeping well during that time, and it really made studying and paying attention much harder.
  3. Maybe don’t increase work hours. I thought I could handle it, but I could’ve spent a lot of time I spent at work studying, and that would have helped a lot. Earning money is great, but my priority is still my education, and I didn’t set my priorities straight this time round.
  4. Give yourself time to review and preview everyday. I didn’t do that consistently, but if I had done more reviewing it wouldn’t have been as hard when I was prepping for midterms and finals. For Summer courses, the material on the midterms go up to the class before the day of the midterm, unlike the cut-offs they give us during the winter terms. Even though it still seems like you have time, prepping the material that you learned earlier beforehand leaves more time to focus on the new material you learned the day before the midterm.
  5. OChem with Jay Wickenden is great.ย Jay Wickenden is a great OChem prof, but his exams/midterms are quite intense. He makes classes really enjoyable and interactive, but the course material is still challenging nonetheless. I would recommend taking Chem 233 during the Summer just for the prof, but just make sure you give yourself lots and lots of time to understand the pile of new material. It really takes time to understand and practice.
  6. I have a new appreciation for OChem/science jokes now and I hate myself.ย dark times, dark times.
  7. Writing about love kind of made me lose my soul. I have friends who enjoyed this course a lot, but it just wasn’t for me. What does being in touch with your emotions even mean wth. But, on the bright side, I have to take an English course again~~~ ๐Ÿ˜€


  1. Oh dang, it sounds like you had a hectic summer so far! Oh man, don’t feel too bad! Even during the year without your crazy schedule, ENG 112 and CHEM 233 were still two of my lowest marks (lol I totally feel you about ignoring other people’s advice that ochem will be killer LOL). Your post made me crack me in the middle of my lunch break haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks for reading my incoherent rambling, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m also relieved that I wasn’t the only one that struggled with with these classes, thank you for your encouragement ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I would recommend looking at the materials ahead of time. That way its not so hard to learn at once. First year is tough as is. Now get your the proper sleep. Take breaks in studying. You can over bear yourself. You get the test and your mind goes blank.

    1. That’s really good advice! I sure learned a lot about the importance of time management and prep work after first year.

  3. I’m not a ubc student, but this post reminds me of my first year summer where I took two courses as well, and I definitely know how you feel when you said that those two were your lowest marks so far lol. I want to share a bit of my experience if you don’t mind.

    So Idk if I was crazy or what, but heading into 3rd year, I took FOUR courses (the max load you have) during 2nd year summer. As summer went by (divided into 2 halves, so 2 courses during May-June and 2 for July-Aug), I felt really burnt out after the first half, but given how utterly trash my gpa was during first year, it really gave me an extra push to finish what I’ve started. Surprisingly, however, even though the marks I got weren’t the highest I’ve ever achieved, they were still very consistent (I got 2 A- and 2 A) which is an overall 3.85 gpa at UofT grading standards. After all this was over, even though I felt that I could’ve done better, it was also a really good learning experience as to how to manage my time which, in my opinion, is one of the most important skills to have in order to succeed in undergrad.

    Anyways, point is, taking summer courses isn’t the most pleasant experience as an undergrad, but having gone through the worst of it, this should serve as an excellent learning experience for you in the upcoming years. And once again, time management is key, along with sleeping well as you mentioned. I use to fool myself into thinking that I don’t have time for this or that but turns out it’s really not hard to plow through things as long as you put your mind to it.

    Sorry for this long post, just felt compelled to give my two cents as an upcoming third year student ๐Ÿ˜›

    P.S Don’t ever do what I did during summer, it’s suicide lmao.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *