The Summer Experience at CSU

Considering staying in Fort Collins over the summer and taking some classes, but not quite sure whether it’s for you? I was in the same position at the end of my first year at CSU. Read on to learn a little bit about summer session at CSU. 

Four CSU students pose with Cam the Ram
Cam the Ram sticks around during summer session, too!

Hello all,

My name is Kate Boyd and I am currently a third-year student studying Chemical and Biological Engineering at Colorado State University. The past two summers I have taken summer classes with CSU; staying in Fort Collins the first summer and returning to my home city of Boulder and taking online classes the second. There are pros and cons to taking summer classes as an engineer. Through sharing my own experiences learning over the summer I hope to give a better idea about what summer session is like! 

Why I chose summer session

I chose to take classes during summer session to get ahead on coursework. Engineering can be a full schedule as is, and I chose to add honors classesa Spanish minor, and a semester abroad on top of all that! Taking classes over the summer allowed me to lighten the course load for the academic school year and my semester abroad (I went to Valencia, Spain!), freeing time for extracurriculars, internships, and research.

When did I take summer classes: Summer between first and second years (SM 2019) and summer between second and third years (SM 2020) 

What classes I took over the summer: 

Summer 2019

  • Honors Seminar (HONR292, on-campus through CSU)
  • Organic Chemistry II (CHEM341, on-campus through CSU)
  • Calculus III (MAT261, online through Front Range Community College)

Summer 2020

  • Microbiology (MIP300, online through CSU)
  • Advanced Writing for the Sciences (CO301B, online through CSU)
Chemistry student holds up a box of donuts
The Alley Cat is a great late-night study spot!

While I took summer classes to get ahead, other students may use summer session to catch up, add a minor, or simply to keep their course load during the semester down. Regardless of your motivation to study over the summer, ⅗ of students participate in summer session during their time at CSU, so you won’t be alone! 

What summer classes look like

Summer classes run as either 4-week, 8-week, or 12-week sessions. The CSU Summer website has a general list of what classes are typically offered over the summer and how long they run. 

Group photo of students in a classroom.
Our 10-person summer Honors-292 Seminar took a group photo at the end of the class!


  • Summer classes are smaller than the typical semester class. This helps with greater professor accessibility and resources for academic aid.  
  • Since you are only taking a couple classes at a time, you have more time to focus on your subject! Summer can be a great time to take harder classes, or to focus on prerequisites for following semesters. 
  • Summer classes are a great time to accelerate your program of study. 
  • You have more free time compared to the academic school year! 


  • The shorter time frame means classes move quickly! You need your head in the game. (Summer sessions are 4-12 weeks as opposed to a 16-week term). 
  • If taking in-person classes, campus is a little quieter than usual without the full student/faculty population. There may be less large student-oriented events going on around Fort Collins. 
  • Class may be every day – no long weekends or breaks! (However, online classes may have more flexible schedules.) 

What summer in Fort Collins looks like

If you’ve never spent the summer in Fort Collins, you’re in for a treat! Fort Collins has a lot to offer, from hiking to Horsetooth reservoir to mountain biking to sunny days perfect for hammocking, and enough restaurants to eat at a new place practically every day. The community holds events too. You’ll find concerts around the campus lagoon featuring bluegrass music and taco trucks, and every Tuesday City Park hosts food trucks, setting up the perfect afternoon to spend outside. There are also movie nights at the Holiday Twin Drive In, Old Town Square, and Canvas Stadium, and the latter two are free as long as you know when to go! 

Thee friends in Old Town Square at night.
We watched Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse in Old Town Square over the summer!

Though campus may be a bit less busy without the full student population, Fort Collins residents keep the city lively and fun. 

What online classes look like

Online classes can be taken wherever you are. I took online classes both while in Fort Collins and back home in Boulder, Colorado. Online classes can either be self-paced (you choose when to hand in work) or paced by the professor (the professor sets deadlines throughout the semester). My classes were paced by the professor, but there were no live classes via Zoom calls or Skype. Instead, there were screen recordings as lectures and assignments to read, analyze, and discuss with other students through Canvas. This meant that I had to turn in assignments on time, but when I got to work on them was all up to me!  

Four friends on a mountain.
Plenty of time to hike with friends while taking online classes!

This left me a lot of time to work, hike, hang out with friends, and spend time doing what I like. Be warned, though: online classes move just as quickly as in-person classes over the summer! Try to keep up with a regular schedule to work on your material and don’t fall behind! 

A cat laying on top of a CSU postcard
Bonus: if taking online classes, they come with free pet snuggles! *

I hope this helps you understand more about what summer classes are and how they look at CSU! Whether you’re trying to catch up, get ahead, add a major or minor, or simply learn some more, summer classes are an amazing opportunity that I recommend students take advantage of. Please feel free to reach out to, the engineering student ambassador email, if you have any questions about engineering or summer session at CSU! 

*Must own pet to redeem ;) 

Kate Boyd, Engineering Student Ambassador

Author: Kate Boyd

Kate is a third-year student studying Chemical and Biological Engineering with a minor in Spanish. She is a committed Engineering Student Ambassador and member of the Honors program, and hails from Boulder, Colorado.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the engineering ambassador team at!