Academic Semesters: Everything You Need to Know

Semesters are well-defined academic calendar periods dividing the school year into distinct 15-18 week-long sections. For most colleges in the United States, the school year is subdivided into three semesters: spring, summer, and fall.

From both a professor and student perspective, there’re advantages and disadvantages of the semester system.

The advantages include:

Natural transition: The semester system follows the same way that the majority of high schools operate. So, the transition to a semester system can feel more seamless to students.

In-depth teaching: Some people believe that the semester system translates into more in-depth teaching. Students also get more time to complete difficult assignments. This difference can play an important role for graduate students who typically need to submit dissertations to graduate.

Shorter classes: The additional five weeks of sessions (a quarter system comprises 10-week sessions) means that average class times can be shorter. The class can run more times each week, but the length of classes tends to be 50 to 75 minutes, whereas the length of some classes in the quarter system can be 90 to 120 minutes or more.

Stronger student-teacher relationships: Since the lengths of classes are longer, students and professors may develop stronger bonds. Additionally, if a student is out for some reason, they may get more time to catch up with other students.

Professional development: The semester system has longer breaks. This helps professors spend more time on their own research or to prepare for their semester.

The disadvantages include:

Changing majors: If a student wishes to change their major mid-way, they may need to spend more in terms of time and money on classes.

Grades: When a student’s school follows the semester system, each grade appears with a bigger impact on their overall GPA. As there’re fewer courses, each of them amounts to more credit apiece. Therefore, if the student earns one poor grade, their GPA may take a hit. This risk gets lowered in the quarter system because each grade appears with a lesser impact.

It’s important to understand that the selection between the quarter and semester system doesn’t boil down to one being more effective than the other. It ultimately is a matter of preference. However, if a student wants to attend a particular school, the choice between the semester vs. the quarter system may become a moot point.

Finally, regardless of whether a student attends a school that follows a quarter or semester system, the most crucial factor in determining their success will be their level of effort, motivation, and determination.

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