The Pros and Cons of Taking an Intensive

Nicole is one of the staff writers for Unimelb Adventures. She is in third year, doing a Bachelor of Music, specialising in Performance and majoring in Piano. She loves keeping herself fit by swimming and going out on adventure walks!

Throughout my undergraduate studies so far, I have loved taking the opportunity to do either summer or winter intensive courses for subjects that I need or would like to do. Most of the subjects I have taken have been core subjects, but I also took a breadth subject that ran during the July intensive period (Auslan and Visual Communication). So here are some of my thoughts on taking an intensive subject!


You get used to being back on campus
I love the feeling of being back on campus after a short break. I like getting the chance to get comfortable with my surroundings before uni begins. It gives you some mental preparation for the next semester. If you are taking a core subject during either the summer or winter intensive periods, use it as a transitioning period into whatever year you may be going into. When I did Music Language 3, I was able to ease into third year studies. Then, when I got into the semester, I didn’t feel so overwhelmed. It was pretty chilled, in a way. I could get used to being a third year by doing a core subject at the start of the year.

You can get back into the swing of studying and/or practising
One of the advantages of doing an intensive is that you can slowly build up your studying and/or practising routine again. I think that it’s important to develop that before the semester starts, and I found that it worked for me during my intensive courses.

You get the place to yourself
As a music student, I know how packed rehearsal and practice spaces can be during the semester. On the other hand, during the intensive period, practising can be very peaceful indeed. It gives me the chance to think about my technique and musical expression a bit more, as well as more room to move around without a lot of external stimuli to distract me. Likewise when it comes to studying in study spaces or libraries. There are lots of seats to find, and it is quite nice indeed! It’s so quiet and peaceful without so many people around.

Look at all the free seats in the MSD study area! (Source: Nicole Ng)

There are no long lines at lunch!
During the summer and winter terms, there is no lunch hour rush. For instance, the lines can be very long at Egg during the semesters! But not during the summer or winter intensives. Just imagine how fast you can get your lunch without a long line at the cash register!

You get the chance (and enough time) to explore the campus more freely
I love exploring! During my intensive last summer, I explored Arts West. I know, I’m a bit late to the party, but it’s better than not going in there at all. I loved every little bit of Arts West, and found a nice studying spot for myself that I will be going to!

Source: Nicole Ng (Instagram)

You can focus on just one subject
The ability and opportunity to concentrate on one subject is a great advantage if you want to do well! I managed to do very well in Music Language 3 because it was the only subject I was doing during the summer intensive period and I could put a lot of effort into it. It’s a really nice feeling to get your final grades back and see that you did really well!

You have fewer subjects to do during the semester
This is personally one of my favourite things about intensives, especially as I am a music student. It gives you more time during semester to do other things such as studying, practising or hanging out with friends. You can be flexible with your schedule too! That’s one of my main reasons for doing an intensive – having more time to prepare for my recital studies, and being able to move around practice and study times if I need to.

Meme Generator

You can get it out of the way
If you are doing a core subject during either the summer or winter terms, it’s great because you can get it out of the way! I remember when I finally finished Music Language 3. My goodness, was it a good feeling. I don’t even have to touch the Music Language stream again for the rest of my tertiary studies! Woohoo!

If you fail the subject during the intensives, you can always give it another shot during the semester
And vice versa for those who may have failed during the semester. It gives you another chance to improve or pass the subject, especially when it’s a core subject. Besides, by re-doing a subject that you may have failed during the semester as an intensive, you’ll stay on track with your study plan, and still be able to graduate on time too!


Can get pretty intense, especially with the workload and expectations that are involved
The courses are intensive – after all, that’s what they’re called. Haha! Learning new content each day can become overwhelming and tiring. That’s why coffee comes in handy: keep yourself awake, and ready to go!

Math GIF

Wishing for a holiday when going straight into the semester
Particularly when you take a core subject as an intensive, you may not get a long break for yourself. Basically, you are sacrificing your summer or winter break for your studies. That’s my least favourite thing about intensive subjects. It sucks when it finishes just before O Week, or during the week that O Week starts. A week is never enough, even if it is better than nothing. So, I suggest making the most of the week-long break, and getting a really good rest before the semester starts! Do whatever you want!


If you are feeling this way, remember that all the advantages of taking an intensive always outweigh the disadvantages! Remember to look after yourself when undertaking an intensive subject. Do something that makes you happy, and give yourself a break every now and then! Or have a chat about your worries, stress and concerns with a friend or family member. I found talking about it was helpful, and got the support I needed to get through it.

If you are behind in terms of attendance or studying, you risk of failing the subject
When taking an intensive subject, you have to be on top of everything. Otherwise, you run the risk of being behind, and it can be hard to catch up! Do lots of preparation and stay organised if you want to do well. This also applies to attending classes and lectures! Always double check if there are any hurdle requirements! Make every week, day, hour and minute count!

So there you have it – the pros and cons of taking an intensive! This is mostly reflecting on taking a core subject, or one of your electives during the summer or winter break, but it applies to any intensive subject available. For more information, check out the handbook: see if one of your core, elective, or breadth subjects runs during the summer or winter break. You can also check out an older post about summer subjects by Daph!

– Nicole

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