Academic calendars divide an academic year into different sessions to allow the students to catch a break in-between each year of study. However, it is possible for schools that offer the same program to have different academic calendars.
Schools in the United States, for example, offer three different academic calendars. These are the Quarter, Semester, and Trimester systems. Understanding the differences between Quarter, Semester, and Trimester is important to any college student who is just beginning to understand the complexities involved in the structure of their academic years.
Different Schools Have Different Academic Calendar
Colleges, Middle schools, and high schools all have different academic calendars they operate. Some colleges working with distinct administration forms might also not share the same academic calendar divisions (even if they are located in the same state). It is common to see schools that are located in different places have different academic calendar divisions.
Schools that operate on the quarter system award quarter credits like those that run the semester or trimester systems. Institutions nevertheless have a way of converting incoming credits from a system to another. This is especially needed in the cases of a transfer (foreign exchange or within natives).
When a student transfers to an institution offering semester credits with an incoming quarter credit, academic advisors are instructed to multiply the incoming credit by 1.5. Vice versa would attract a division by 1.5.
However, when a student moves from a quarter system to a semester system, it might be a little difficult for the student to adjust if they don’t understand what each means.
What Is A Quarter?
As the name implies, a quarter system divides an academic year into four divisions (sessions). The four sessions are named according to the four seasons of the year; spring, summer, fall, and winter. Usually, summer is used to complete outstanding courses or if a student wishes to finish his/her degree in advance.
Each session in the quarter system lasts for about 10 weeks, each with the whole academic year ending in June from September. In each quarter, a student can take about 3 to 4 classes. This highly depends on how many credits each class is. This is because each session comes with a maximum number of credits a student can offer.
Some students prefer this system because of its flexibility, and it allows students to take small loads of coursework at a time. Teachers would prefer this system because the shorter breaks would keep them and students in focus. Most students tend to forget what was taught in the previous semesters when the break is too long.
What Is A Trimester?
A trimester system divides the academic year into three sessions. These sessions are also named according to the seasons of the year; fall, winter, and spring. This system isn’t prevalent with higher institutions, but it is also used in many middle schools and high schools.
Each trimester lasts about 12 to 13 weeks. However, the ‘summer system’ still exists, but it is not recorded as part of the school year. Students can take about 3 to 4 classes within the credits allowed in each session.
What Is A Semester?
A semester divides an academic year into only two sessions; fall session and spring session. This means that there are two long breaks within each academic year. The summer break (the break after the spring session) and the long winter break (the break in between the fall and the spring sessions).
Each session is about 15 weeks long. This system is the most commonly used in the United States. In each session, a student can take about 4 to 6 classes within the allowed number of credits for that session.
Some scholars have studied each system and its impact on students and teachers. They concluded that the semester system provides students with ample time to digest and learn what they need to per time. Teachers/ Lecturers also can create and complete many assignments to allow students to comprehend better—little wonder why some schools are migrating to the semester calendar system.
Now that you know the significant differences between each academic system, the natural question to ask is ‘which academic calendar is the best? All the systems have their pros and cons, and the best one to enroll in will mostly depend on the student’s needs and preferences. As such, we can’t pick the winner of them all. Students can only try to understand how it works to not fall into the trap of each system’s timing.