Black Vs. Orange: College Calendar Systems

Semester System

The majority of colleges and universities in the United States operate on a semester calendar system that usually consist of 15-week terms. There are several advantages to using this system as compared to the quarter calendar system in which terms are 10 weeks long.

The first of these advantages is that the semester system offers students more time to focus on each class. Having more time to focus on one subject usually amounts to a better overall education; students are allowed to fully delve into the subjects. This results in a better understanding of the material overall. Once this happens, students are then able to be more equipped to take on specific tasks upon matriculation into the working world.

The next advantage lies in the ability for students to bounce back and improve their performance. With a longer term, the period of adjustment is more forgiving.

Students can make up for mistakes they commit during the beginning of the term; thus, grade point averages do not have to suffer. This especially applies to those attending college for the first time. Oftentimes, it takes several weeks to adapt to the rigor of college courses, and it is not uncommon that grades begin to suffer during this period. Fortunately, students have time to speak with the professor and find out what they need to do to improve their grade by the end of the term. The length of the term makes this entirely possible.

It is also worth noting that since most colleges operate on the semester system, transferring from a two-year college is a relatively easy transition. Many students choose to take this route to save money but find themselves limited to colleges that use the semester system.

Finally, obtaining employment after graduation tends to become easier when graduating from a semester system college, which is one month before quarter system colleges graduate. That extra month can be the difference between landing the job and not. For that, the semester system seems the better choice.

Quarter System

​Though most colleges operate on the semester calendar system, there are specific advantages to the quarter calendar system that cannot be ignored.

It is often said that the quarter system does not allow enough focus on each subject, but this is largely specific to the individual. Many of the colleges that do participate in the quarter calendar system are also some of the top institutions in the country. The advantages of such a system come in different forms.

First, colleges operating on the quarter system offer students more classes to take. With a shorter term length and three terms throughout the year, the average student can take twelve classes each year as opposed to only eight classes at a semester system college–assuming the student takes four classes per term and doesn’t take summer classes. Students can then expand their base of knowledge in order to get a better sense of what exactly interests them.

Still, students enrolling in quarter system colleges seem to be expected to perform sooner than those in colleges with a semester system. There is less time to adjust, but at the same time, it is true that these colleges start as long as a month after most semester system colleges. Students have the opportunity to watch their peers start college before them, and perhaps this allows these students to become more prepared for what’s to come. At the same time, most textbooks are designed around the semester system, and quarter system colleges will at times use these textbooks. For that, students must be prepared to take on a possibly heavier workload.

Another advantage is that there are shorter breaks in the quarter calendar system. While this may seem like a clear disadvantages, this is not quite true. Think about it: How many times have you grown so used to vacation that it is difficult to get back into the rhythm of school? This allows for more productivity and for students to remain focused for longer.

The quarter system has its flaws, but in the end, it tends to result in more productive and better rounded students.

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Jamil Burns

Opinion Editor at The Pacifican

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