Lack of classes, internships, uncertainty keeping underclassmen from enrolling in summer quarter

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Class offerings, social life and internship season: Underclassmen are considering a number of factors when deciding whether or not to spend their summer at Stanford.  

At a February Faculty Senate meeting, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Sarah Church said that although spring enrollment is expected to be “robust,” far fewer students are intending to enroll in summer, the first term that most frosh and sophomores are expected to be able to live on-campus in the 2020-21 academic year. Church said that many respondents reported that their summer plans were still uncertain, so actual enrollment may differ from the survey’s predictions.

Despite months of itching to come to campus, underclassmen don’t seem to be rushing towards an in-person summer quarter. Why? The answer may lie in class offerings. 

Nearly 2,000 undergraduate classes will be offered in the spring quarter, according to Stanford Explore courses, but less than a quarter of that number will be offered in the summer, with only 435 classes listed as of publication. 

“Stanford’s done a really terrible job about incentivizing students to come back with good course offerings,” said Christian Martin ’23. “I know I was just looking for myself, and it’s just really abysmal.” Martin is planning to return to campus this summer, but thinks that this shortfall may be dissuading others from making the same choice.

Nicha Rattanabut ’24 is one of those people. She had considered coming to campus for the summer and taking spring as her flex term, but ultimately decided to enroll in a traditional academic schedule and apply for special circumstance spring housing instead. 

“It seemed like no one was going to be on campus for summer. It was no classes, no people,” she said.

Church acknowledged student concerns over limited summer quarter curricular offerings during her Faculty Senate presentation. She encouraged departments to offer additional summer classes, saying that students “would appreciate having as many courses as possible to choose from.”

“The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education continues to work with faculty to ensure summer quarter students have varied, robust and engaging course offerings, whether they choose to study on or off campus,” University spokesperson E.J. Miranda wrote in a statement to the Daily. “Additional information about summer quarter and the available programs and courses will be forthcoming.” 

Although some students are disappointed with the number of summer offerings, others are quite satisfied. Lukas Lopez-Jensen ’23 said that he was “pleasantly surprised” by how many classes were available for the summer. 

Martin said he wished the University had done more to advertise summer quarter, calling it a “missed opportunity.” While he understands the safety limitations of the pandemic, Martin believes that the administration could be promoting a safe and social summer that would encourage students to return to campus. 

“There’s space for creativity to come up with some kind of class bonding,” he said. 

In addition to reduced offerings, summer is also a common time for students to take on internships, which can complicate planning. Lopez-Jensen is currently applying to summer opportunities, and the outcome of those applications will impact whether he decides to enroll in the summer quarter. Martin, however, says that he is not worried about missing out on internships due to the current job climate.

“I think it’s tough to find actually meaningful, worthwhile internships, especially given the fact that everything’s pretty much virtual,” Martin said. 

Previous efforts to return students to campus have raised concerns that undergraduates hold unrealistic expectations for the quality of life on campus. However, the underclassmen interviewed believe that though there will be restrictions, campus could be enjoyable regardless. 

“I don’t need to go to a 500-person lecture hall and eat in dining halls that are at 100% capacity,” Lopez-Jensen said.  

Martin said that he expects campus to be different, with most learning remaining virtual and activities happening outside, but he remains optimistic that vaccinations may result in some in-person learning opportunities for the summer. Whatever campus life looks like, Martin believes that Stanford students will make the best of it. 

“I think we’re adaptable. I think at the end of the day, even with restrictions, we’ll find ways to make it awesome and fun and a good Stanford experience,” Martin said.

Deciding whether to enroll in summer can be especially difficult for frosh, many of whom are yet to step foot on campus. While Rattanabut has made some Stanford friends online, she knows the experience is not the same. “Sometimes I regret not taking a gap year,” she said. 

Although she acknowledges the challenges in designing the altered pandemic schedule, she feels that frosh were at a disadvantage based on how quarters on-campus were assigned.

“I might be biased but I feel like they should have prioritized the freshmen a little bit more,” Rattanabut said. 

Even as frosh and sophomores weigh their options, they are painfully aware that they have been invited to campus twice before and canceled on each time. “Our planning for summer quarter is ongoing and – public health conditions permitting – we intend to invite frosh and sophomores to reside on campus,” wrote Miranda.

Now some students feel like they need a contingency plan. Lopez-Jensen is still on the fence about returning to campus, but is planning his summer as if he won’t be.

“I’m leaving the door open,” he said. “I would be excited to go back if allowed. But I’m not waiting.”

Although student plans for summer quarter differ, it is clear that many hope to return to campus sometime soon.

“We all want as much time on campus as possible, right?” Martin said.

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Kirsten Mettler '23 is a desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and a Staff Writer. She writes for News and Arts & Life. Contact The Daily’s News section at news ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.