When applying to colleges, it’s important to consider whether the school you’re applying to is a quarter school or semester school. A quarter school system is made up of four 10-week sessions through fall, winter, spring, and summer. A semester school system is made up of two 15-week terms through fall and spring. Though it doesn’t sound like much of a difference, there are actually many pros and cons to both school systems.
Pros of Semester School:
1. In-Depth Instruction: Because semester classes are inherently longer than quarter classes, students will have more time to fully digest the material. A semester class will dive deeper into the subject’s concepts. In addition, students have more time to build a relationship with their professor through having more opportunities to attend office hours and ask questions.
2. Less stress about picking classes: Semester schools only pick classes twice every year. Semester students only have to worry about planning schedules for the fall and spring, while quarter students have to worry about planning schedules for the fall, winter, spring, and summer.
3. More time to improve grades: Because a semester is longer, students have more time to raise their grades. After a semester student’s first midterm, they will most likely have additional midterms, projects, or extra credit assignments in order to gain more points.
4. School ends earlier: Semester schools tend to end earlier than quarter schools, so many internships will be available. Semester school students tend to get first pick with internships because they’re out of school sooner, typically in May, versus quarter system students finish in June.
Cons of Semester School:
1. Less opportunity to experiment with classes: Because there are only 2 semesters every year, students can only take a handful of classes. It’s important that the classes they take are going towards their major requirements.
2. Don’t like a class? If students don’t like a class they’re taking, they’re in a tough situation. If it’s too late to drop the class or switch it for a different one, students are stuck in it for quite a while.
Pros of Quarter School:
1. Experiment with classes: Quarter schools have four quarters, so there’s more opportunity for students to take different classes during the year. Students can take classes outside of their major requirement without worrying about not graduating in four years. Because these classes are shorter than semester classes, there tends to be less of a commitment. Taking an introductory art class that only lasts 10 weeks is less heavy than taking one that lasts 15 weeks.
2. Less material covered: Because professors have less time to cover material in quarter classes, they’ll have less material to cover. Students can really get to know and internalize the concepts for their classes because only so many concepts are reviewed.
3. Shorter, more frequent breaks: Compared to semester schools, quarter schools give their students more time to breathe. Though the breaks are shorter, they’re more frequent and spread out. Students will still retain the information from the quarter before, while getting an opportunity to rest their brain.
Cons of Quarter School:
1. Classes move faster: Professors in quarter schools have less time to cover a topic, so classes will move faster. When one midterm is over, students have to be ready to tackle the next one. Compared to a semester school’s pace, quarter schools move a lot faster.
2. Less time to get to know classmates: Students in the quarter system have less opportunities to get to know their classmates. Shorter classes often mean less group projects and group study sessions because they can be difficult to coordinate. With more time to figure things out, semester students are able to build stronger bonds with each other.
Nina is a Consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Nina is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley majoring in Chemical Biology. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.