The Semester VS. Quarter System in College

Acquiring a higher education is an investment worth making. But, there are questions about which academic calendar you want to settle for when enrolled.

The two most common academic calendars or schedules colleges or universities use are the semester and quarter systems. While both have pros and cons, I would like to explain the details.

As you read, you will understand how both schedules work for students and choose one that best suits your personality. So, I’ll advise you to be interested while reading this article.

Kindly read the table of contents for an overview and click on any part to automatically take you to your area of interest.

What Are the Semester and Quarter Systems?

A semester system is one with 15-week cycles, followed by a winter break and one in the spring and followed by a summer break. Here, the student takes five courses or an estimated 15 credits each term. A semester resumes in late August and ends in early May.

Also, this system is practised by a more significant percentage of most institutions of higher learning.

A quarter system consisting of about ten weeks in the fall, winter, summer, and spring will have the students take 3-4 courses each term or 9-12 credits. This academic calendar runs from the middle of September through early June.

Furthermore, it has an optional quarter, allowing students to take more workloads and probably have an early graduation.

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What Are The Advantages Of A Semester System?

Below are the advantages of a semester system

  • Because it runs a more extended session, it is less stressful for students and professors. Also, it has a positive impact on both teaching and learning.
  • As exerted by some experts, long semesters allow students to learn and complete assignments. It is most helpful to graduate students who have lengthy tasks to complete.
  • A semester calendar year provides room for student-faculty contact. Failure due to illness may be corrected if there is the frequent rapport between students and their professors.
  • To accommodate the attention of the college students, a semester system has shorter class periods lasting about 50-75 minutes.

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Advantages Of A Quarter System

Unlike the time spread in a semester system, the condensed terms of a quarter system have the following advantages to offer its students.

  • In a quarter system, it is easier for faculty to take a sabbatical leave to focus on their research. They can still implement year-long teaching requirements into the other two quarters.
  • Shorter terms to students mean they can spend less time in a class or with a professor they find disagreeable. At the same time, professors can manage a rowdy class or a combative student for a short time.
  • This quarter is flexible, permitting students to try double majors, interact more with faculty members, and make up for academic failures.

Disadvantages Of The Semester System And The Quarter System

While both academic schedules favor college students and instructors, they also have their impediments.

On the semester system, students who wish to switch majors may take and pay for courses not needed, while switching majors in the quarter system wouldn’t cost students that much resources and time.

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Also, failing and trying to make up in a semester calendar seems hard as each term comes with its terms for students.

Furthermore, on the quarter system, students may need help landing internships because businesses generally set internship program dates around a semester schedule. Similarly, quarter-system students may also not qualify for study abroad options, which often run on a semester schedule.

Finally, the quarter systems may cause students to miss out on life-changing opportunities.

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How Do Transfer Schools Calculate Semester vs. Quarter Units?

Schools that operate on a semester system award semester credits, while colleges that use on a quarter system award quarter credits. Before successfully transferring from one system to another, you should get acquainted with how those credits are calculated. Here’s how.

Generally, transferred incoming semester credits are multiplied by 1.5. For instance, if a student earns 30 credits in a semester calendar college at the University of Washington, such a student would have gotten 45 quarter credits by the end of the calculations.

Similarly, transferred quarter credits are divided by 1.5. For instance, if a student from the University of Washington transferred into a program at a quarter system college with five quarter credits, such a student will now have 3.3-semester credits by the end of calculations.

So, for you as a prospective transfer student, many schools allow a certain number of transfer credits that are usually around 60. 

How Long Is A College Semester?

Depending on the school, a typical college semester is fifteen weeks long, with the academic calendar divided into three semesters (fall, spring, and summer). The fall and spring semesters are fifteen weeks long, and the third semester is shorter.

Usually, the academic year begins in September and ends in August of the succeeding year. The fall semester starts in September, while the spring semester begins in January. Also, summer terms hold between May and August.

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Which Colleges Are On The Quarter System?

To further narrow your search, we have helped you compile a list of schools that dwell on the quarter system. See them below.

  • California State University
  • Drexel University
  • Eastern Oregon University
  • Capella University Minneapolis
  • Kendall College
  • Stanford University
  • Santa Clara University
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Chicago
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Milwaukee School of Engineering
  • Dartmouth College

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Which System Is Best For Students?

Both college systems have different goals which satisfy their various students. The semester system has more distinct advantages primarily associated with time. But, the quarter school schedule provides more flexibility with multiple options.

Students in the quarter academic system can remain focused knowing they have less timeframe than those in the semester academic calendar. Regardless, checking how schools run their academic year and whether it suits you is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions Semester VS. Quarter Systems

Between the semester and quarter system, which is better?

The quarter and semester systems have different goals. While the semester system gives the students time, the quarter system allows students to read and learn under high pressure.

Why was the semester system adopted?

It was adopted for the sake of weak students. If a student fails in two subjects, the whole year is wasted. To curb this, the semester system was brought forward.

What is a quarter system?

A quarter system divides the academic year into four sessions: fall, winter, spring, and summer. With a quarter system, each session lasts approximately ten weeks.

Conclusion

Please make the most of this information and settle for what is better for you.

Best wishes!

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