Do Community Colleges Have Mini-Mesters?

Our guide to understanding and successfully steering through a community college mini-mester.
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In recent years, many community colleges have introduced “mini-mesters” to their curriculum to expand learning through interdisciplinary, project-based learning and give students more flexibility and opportunities to earn credits.

Mini-mesters are miniature semesters, typically ranging from 4-8 weeks, depending on the college and subject, and usually take place after the fall and spring semesters, in December and May. This class allows students in a credit-earning intensive course that includes real-world experiences, hands-on learning, and travel.

Mini-mesters allow students to recover credits, gain extra credits, explore their passions by taking subjects they typically wouldn’t be able to during their regular semester. 

Here’s our guide to help you understand what mini-mesters are and how you can successfully make the most of your experience there.

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Characteristics of mini-mesters

If you’re a student looking to apply for a “mini-mester” at a community college but are unsure as to what it exactly entails, here are a few things to know about what makes a mini-mester unique. 

Shorter Class Timeline  

Mini-mester programs typically last from three to eight weeks, depending on the course and community college itself. They offer the same course, credits, and high-quality interactive online/in-person programs, all condensed into a mini-mester format.

School Credit System

Mini-mesters provide a great opportunity for students to earn credits in a compressed time frame, allow “at-risk” students to recover their lost credits, and allow others to gain credits to graduate quicker.

Travel Opportunities

Some schools give students the chance to travel to different cities, states, and countries for their mini-mester. This unique opportunity allows students to immerse themselves in the language, culture, and community of a new place.

How do mini-mesters work in college?

Many students are opting for mini-mesters to complete the required courses for an associate degree or to transfer to universities in less time. Students can also make use of these shorter formats available at community colleges between semesters to complete prerequisites for upcoming semesters, take a course that would progress them closer to degree completion, or lighten their load for the normal/ regular semester.

Mini-terms are usually 2-4 credits, and taking them enable learners to fit more credits into their schedule and thus to early graduation. These courses include accelerated learning in which students can focus intensively on course subject matter through active learning and hands-on training.

In mini-mesters, there are two modes of study: online and traditional in-person classroom setting. However, classes are frequently taken online and are usually divided into summer and winter mini-mesters.

Mini-mesters vs regular course

A semester is a 15-week term during which the average full-time student enrolls in 4-5 courses, earning 15 credits. Mini-mesters, on the other hand, cover the same amount of credits and materials in a shorter time (typically 4-8 weeks) with more focused learning.

A study called the “Influence of a Compressed Semester on Student Performance in a Construction Science Course” was conducted by Dr. Ifte Choudhury, an Associate Professor in the Department of Construction Science at Texas A&M University. 

The results show that the study “supports the hypothesis that students enrolled in a compressed academic session perform better than those taking the same course in a regular session. 

The mean exam grade of students taking a Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing course offered at a state university in a mini-mester is significantly higher than that of the students in a Spring semester.”

However, it is important to note that this study was based on the findings for only one course in a semester.

What kind of students are mini-mesters most effective for?

Students looking to get back on track are the most common type of applicants for mini-mesters. Being able to earn credits in a shorter period allows them to regain their academic footing. 

However, some students enroll in mini-mesters to avoid falling behind. For example, a student that struggles with biology may take a biology class in a mini-mester. This way they can earn credits that act like a safety net, in case they fall behind during their regular semester.

Due to the short-term nature of mini-mesters, it can sometimes be challenging for students to keep up and manage their time. In any case, to make the most of a mini-mester, you must be self-motivated and goal-oriented.

Can mini-mesters be used for situations other than credit recovery?

Yes, while mini-mesters are a great option for students looking to recover credits, there are many other cases in which opting for a mini-mester may be a great choice. Students looking to gain credits faster or fulfill career-related requirements can complete their credit goals through mini-mesters. 

Furthermore, mini-mesters are a great opportunity for students looking to improve themselves or gain a better understanding of a particular subject. Mini-mester classes not only allow students to receive better one-on-one attention but also have some great mentorship opportunities. 

When is a mini-mester not a good option?

Yes, there are a few cases in which enrolling in a mini-mester is not recommended. 

According to the General Guidelines and Tips provided by the NCAA, “schools or programs that allow students to complete courses in a short time and those that allow students to take numerous courses at the same time, especially in the same subject area, or that are sequential in nature” are not approved by the NCAA legislation. And so, students interested in taking part in NCAA athletics should not opt for mini-mesters.

High school students looking to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes are also advised not to enroll in mini-mesters. The load of work and the time constraint of a mini-mester can be extremely demanding and overwhelming for students enrolled in AP classes.

Moreover, In order to complete the course in a shorter time frame, the class timings are designed to be longer. And so, if you’re a student that has a short attention span, mini-mesters may not be the best option for you. In this case, you can look into applying for community college courses available online!

Pros and Cons

Enrolling in a mini-mester can be an amazing opportunity, allowing students to immerse themselves in intensive, active learning within a short time frame. Before making a decision there are a few things you should take into account. 

We have compiled a list of some of the most common advantages and disadvantages of mini-mesters.

Advantages 

Having the possibility of early graduation 

Mini-mesters allow students to gain extra credits in a shorter time. If you take one mini-mester class per year for four years of college/university, you may be 12 credit hours ahead of schedule, potentially allowing you to graduate a semester early.

Small classes

Typically, mini-mester classes are smaller in size, allowing more one-on-one interaction between students and their professors and opening up greater mentorship and learning opportunities.

Focusing on a certain subject 

A summer mini-mester is the perfect opportunity for students to dive deeper into subjects they're passionate about without having to worry about juggling their regular semester.  

Disadvantages

Managing your time and work

The short-term nature of mini-mesters means professors have to cover a lot of information in a limited amount of time. So, to have a successful mini-mester, you must be attentive during class and should try your best not to fall behind. 

Longer classes

The overall duration of a mini-mester is shorter than a typical semester. However, to complete the course in a shorter time frame, the class timings are designed to be longer. 

And so, if you’re a student that has a short attention span, mini-mesters may not be the best option for you.

List of community colleges offering mini-mesters

Students can earn college credits between semesters by opting for mini-mesters at community colleges. 

Community colleges across the United States offer online and in-person mini-mesters in a variety of subjects and start dates to help students accelerate their graduation, maintain momentum, and make use of their time off. We've listed a few community colleges for you that offer mini-terms to earn credits.

Central New Mexico Community College

Central New Mexico Community College is the largest higher education institution in New Mexico in terms of undergraduate enrollment, with over 22,000 learners. 

CNM offers associate degrees, certificates & college credit courses  in over 100 disciplines of study, as well as expedited, non-credit skills training in mini-mesters/terms, which connects learners to high-demand jobs in the region's economy.

Middlesex Community College

Middlesex Community College is a public institution located in Middletown, Connecticut. It has a total of 2547 students enrolled. MCC has an excellent teaching history of over 20 years & award-winning online education. The academic year at the institution is divided into semesters. 

MCC is offering mini-mesters to help students fit education into their busy schedules by providing flexible, low-cost, and expedited sessions that allow them to complete general requirements faster and transfer credits sooner. 

Pima Community College 

Pima Community College is Southern Arizona’s premier source of training for adult learners who seek to quickly gain skills and credentials. It has several locations around Tucson so it is easily accessed and offers online classes in 16-week regular or mini-terms .

Pima Community College is helping many people pursuing their education and is low-cost, excellent and offers a wide range of  academic programs including college credits courses  and continuing education credits (CEUs),certifications or licenses or getting better insight of a particular subject and even finding a new one. 

Are Mini-mesters harder?

Whether mini-mesters are hard or not depends on each student and their situation. For example, the more subjects you take, the more challenging it gets. Taking on multiple classes can be difficult to manage because that means studying a lot of content/information in very little time. On the other hand, taking one or two classes is far less challenging and can prove to be extremely fruitful. 

How challenging a mini-mester is ultimately depends on the student themselves. If you’re highly self-motivated and organized throughout your mini-mester, even taking multiple classes will be manageable. 

How to succeed in a mini-mester class

It can be challenging to guide yourself through a mini-mester successfully. Here are some tips to help you complete your upcoming mini-mester classes efficiently!

Plan and manage your time

With a mini-mester, coursework is not as spaced out as a regular semester, so there's no room for procrastination. 

Tests, assignments, homework, and exams happen regularly with comparatively fewer gaps and breaks, so you need to be 100% committed to your course(s). 

With that being said, it isn’t impossible to manage. With the right amount of planning and scheduling, you will be able to get through your entire mini-mester successfully.

How challenging a mini-mester is ultimately depends on the student themselves. If you’re highly self-motivated and organized throughout your mini-mester, even taking multiple classes will be manageable. 

Choose your classes wisely

There are multiple reasons why a student may choose to enroll in a mini-mester. Some students do it to make up for lost credits, while others learn a new skill or earn extra credits. If you’re the latter, then what classes you choose for your mini-mester is very important. 

It is advised to take classes that you enjoy or are passionate about. Thankfully, most colleges offer a variety of options to choose from.  

Ask for help when needed 

Due to the condensed nature of mini-mesters, there’s a lot of information being taught in very little time. However, because mini-mester classes are comparatively smaller, more one-on-one interaction between students and their professors is needed. If you feel like you’re struggling to keep up, make sure to ask your professors for help!

Conclusion 

Whether enrolling in a mini-mester at community college is the right choice or not depends on a student’s circumstances. After weighing the pros and cons and assessing your situation, if you believe that a mini-mester is the right choice, then you should consider enrolling for a mini-mester soon! With good time management, consistency, and constant communication with your professor, you are set for success in your mini-mester class.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do community colleges have winter/summer classes?

How long are mini mesters for?

Can you take mini mesters online?

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