It seems as if students whose school runs on the quarter system are just completely out of sync with the rest of the world. Here are four relatable moments for students who have to deal with never being on break at the same time as people who are on the semester system.
1. Get in Late, Get out Late
In the quarter system, each “term” is roughly 10 weeks and because of this, the whole year is broken up into four parts, coinciding with the seasons. So, after summer break, the first term is fall term, which usually begins in mid-September.
Students whose school runs on the quarter system find themselves feeling like they have a longer summer break because when mid-August rolls around and schools on semester schedules are going back to classes, the 14.7 percent of students on the quarter system get to relax for a few more weeks.
Sadly, this luxury is short lived. Fall break consists of a short three-day weekend only two or three weeks after you begin classes. The end of fall term usually ends around the same time as a semester system would, but then it picks up a week after the new year. When winter term ends, spring break begins.
Just a short week of relaxing after taking finals for winter term, spring term begins. This is when students on the quarter system start to slowly lose any and all motivation. Their friends in semester-system schools are gearing up for finals in the beginning of May, and quarter-system students are neck deep in midterm exams and projects.
Late May and the beginning of June roll around and quarter-system students, at this point, are wishing for the sweet, kiss of death from finals just to make it to summer break.
2. 10-Week Courses
Schools that run on the quarter system tend to run for 10 weeks, but trying to fit an entire college course in that small of a time frame is extremely difficult. Professors who usually teach the course in a normal semester have to cram all of the information into 10 weeks, while also leaving time for students to be tested on the information.
Essentially, 10-week courses fly by and information is shoved down your throat. There is no such thing as syllabus week because professors can’t waste even a day of class and there is also no such thing as “dead week.” With 10-week courses, by week three, you could even be taking a midterm.
Midterm week usually depends on your professor, so you could have a three-week long midterm week or all of your midterms in one single week. Shortly after midterms, you’re preparing for finals, trying to master all of the information you learned in just 10 short weeks.
Being involved with extra-curricular activities also becomes a problem when school work gets overloaded. While this is true for any college, when on the quarter system, midterms come quickly and can last a long time, so trying to juggle midterms then finals quickly after, along with extra-curricular activities, can get to be too much.
Also, because quarter-system students have to master a subject in just 10 weeks, skipping class is usually not an option. For classes that are twice a week, if you skip one class, you miss about five percent of the information.
For classes that are once a week, if you skip one class, you miss 10 percent of the whole course. With 10-week courses, playing catch up is a very dangerous game that is, by all means, risky.
3. Languages Are Hard to Learn
Along with 10-week courses throwing information in your face, learning a language is considerably difficult. Learning a language involves tons of repetition and practice that a 10-week course does not offer. Taking a language course is great for job applications and being fluent in multiple languages can put you in a better position for your job search.
The quarter system doesn’t allow for someone to properly learn a language and master it completely. It forces the student to merely remember the information and not take the time to apply and practice it in real life.
4. The Positives
The quarter system can, on the surface, seem like the worse alternative, but there are some pros to the system. Because courses are so short, if you end up not liking the professor or even the material being taught, the class is over in 10 short weeks. Also, colleges who run on the quarter system have students who graduate with, on average, 50 more credit hours.
Because of this, adding a major or even multiple minors is definitely easier in the quarter system. Students also have more room to explore different subjects. With more room for electives, students are able to explore an array of subjects to fulfill all of their interests.
Some argue that because there are fewer breaks during the term and shorter breaks in between terms, students aren’t able to relax and unwind as much as students operating on the semester system.
While this may seem like a con to students, professors say that this allows students to perform better because they are always in “school mode.” They also argue that this creates a better work ethic in students because they have little time for breaks.