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Why did the university throw the semester system out the window?

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DePaul follows the quarter system, and while we reside at our desks pondering the thought of summer, semester students are basking in the warm summer breeze and inviting sunrays.

A certain reality slaps you in the face as you exit the classroom. But wouldn’t it be nice if this reality came earlier?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be out of school and able to enjoy my summer vacation, but not if it means I have to choose semesters over quarters.

The semester system divides the school year into two blocks, each 15 weeks long plus one extra for finals. Semester students take five or six classes for a total of 10 to 12 classes for the year. Generally speaking, courses meet for a shorter duration—usually an hour—over a longer period of time. This system also starts earlier than the quarters but ends in late May.

On the other hand sits the quarter system. Divided into four blocks—autumn, winter, spring and summer—they are 10 weeks long, plus an extra week allotted for finals. This means there are 33 weeks of school, which is only one week longer than the semester system. Students enroll in three or four classes per quarter for a total of nine to 12 classes per year. The classes meet two times a week to equal 20 meetings per class per quarter.

“The length of the semester puts school at a slower pace, or not as hurried, compared to the quarter system,” said Jeremy Chereskin, a former quarter student who now follows semesters. “It’s easy to move around and fit in different classes while the work remains engaging.”

And with the schedule not as demanding, missing one class does not mean a half-week’s worth of material is missed. This allows for more time to cover topics in depth and gain a better understanding of the covered material. Also, students are given more time to study and finish homework, which may lead to more free time to socialize or relax.

So what’s the catch? While students are given the chance to take a couple more classes each block, the length of a semester makes way for students to fall behind or procrastinate. The classes are weeks longer, and students may begin to feel like a topic drags on—after which they could lose a lot of interest.

“The courses last longer, and busy work is given to the students to keep them thinking about the topic [so they don’t] become bored with it,” said Chereskin. “Also, since our breaks don’t line up with our exams, we have to take them after the break.”

On the other hand, the quarter system actually has many positive aspects, but managing them is not easy. Each class is inevitably faster paced, and topics are covered in a smaller time period, meaning students have to work harder, because each class, quarter and year is more challenging.

But taking more classes in an academic year means students are given the opportunity to learn about more topics. They are given the chance to study chemistry or philosophy or any other field they would normally not have the opportunity to study. The shorter class lengths keep the students’ attention, because before they even get a chance to become bored with a class, it’s over. Plus, if a class is dropped, there will be two more chances to make it up within the same year; this allows for a greater flexibility in students’ schedules.

However, with the good comes the bad. Topics are not covered as in-depth as with what semesters offer. This means students feel in more of a hurry and are not given the time to absorb the material. Students have to juggle more work, but a lesser amount of classes. And with the semester students reaching their summer vacation before quarter students, they are more appealing to jobs and internship recruiters.

If your life is busy and you find it hard to make time for schoolwork, then the semester system would seemingly fit. However, if you are ready for a fast-paced learning environment or going to college for a reason, then the quarter system would satisfy those needs.

Sure, the semester students can keep their extra weeks of summer—but when it comes to this choice, I’d rather stick with the quarter system and learn a thing or two more.

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The Student News Site of DePaul University
Why did the university throw the semester system out the window?