Summer school is a weird time. A lot of folks are there because they more of less have to be–they failed the class before, they need it for their major, or it’s a general education requirement–and don’t want to be there. The pace is insane. It’s school, but… not.

It doesn’t have to be like that, though. I’m in summer school now, and though it is a strange environment, it’s not a bad one. Here are three ways I’ve taken advantage of summer school–it’s not too late for you to do the same.

Get closer to your professors: I’m in the process of moving from a campus where classes max out at about 33 students to a campus where intro lectures can easily be 150 students large. The class that I’m in, an intro chemistry section, would normally be on the large end for my school. However, because it’s a summer session, there’s only about 40 students. Because of the smaller class size, I actually have an opportunity to form a relationship with my professor by going to office hours and speaking up in class. Since summer session can be pretty brutal as far as pace goes, make sure to make an impression so that the professor doesn’t just think of you as a name come exam time.

Make class friends: If you’re feel like it’s hard to meet new people in class during the school year because you’re always running off to your next class, summer school’s for you. Most folks are only taking one or two classes, so they’re not as immediately busy once class ends. If you’re having trouble and want to talk to a student who knows what’s up, or you just want to make a new friend, summer school’s great–people actually have time. This is particularly helpful if you’re taking a summer course in your major area, where you’re likely to see the same people again–summer school ups your chances of seeing a friendly face come the regular school year.

Learn a subject without lapsing: If your school requires you to take multiple semesters of a language, or you’re in a series course (chem I and II, for example), it can be helpful to take at least one of the courses in the summer. For languages in particular, you can speed up your learning process by taking the first course during your second summer session and enrolling in the second course come fall semester. Unlike a fall/spring course pairing, you don’t have a month between courses to forget things. This means that you’ll retain knowledge without having to relearn it, which can be a lifesaver during the school year. You already have enough to worry about without having to relearn old material, so take advantage of the summer session to make that happen.

Summer school has its downsides, but on the whole it can be a pretty rewarding experience (and it certainly beats sitting on the couch, if that’s your other option). Do you have any summer school tips that you’ve found helpful? Let us know in the comments!