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Can semesters save us?

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Can semesters save us?

Marlee Chlystek | The DePaulia

Marlee Chlystek | The DePaulia

Marlee Chlystek | The DePaulia

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Semesters are the Type B personality of school systems, and I am a Type B. Before transferring to DePaul, I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. As one of the oddballs who did not become a diehard Illini — I do not miss it — but I do miss the semesters. Since transferring to DePaul, I am cramming my assignments just to submit them on time, and feel like I need more weeks in my classes to absorb information and, to be honest and breathe. As a Type B personality, we need our time, according to Psychology Today. Type As on the other hand, typically can and thrive at a faster pace, shorter time frame — much like DePaul quarters.

Compared with DePaul’s 10-week quarters, semesters give students an average of 16 weeks with their courses. 71.2 percent of all colleges and universities are based on the semester system, according to the National Association of College Stores. As a freshman, I was able to go to school full time, work part time, work as the music editor at the university radio station and participate in several other clubs. Now that I live in the city and have to pay rent, I must work over 20 hours a week. I am also the director of development at 14 East, which requires at least 10 hours out of my week. Like anyone,  there is more to my life that goes on behind the scenes with my family and mental health. I could function and thrive more in a semester system. Other students feel the same.

“On the quarter system, it felt as though the workload overshadowed my ability to pursue social activities or a jobs,” said Pyper Hayden, a former DePaul Student. Hayden attended Chapman University in Orange, California before transferring to DePaul. She eventually transferred back to Chapman because she preferred the semester system.

“I did not feel the quarter system was conducive to my academic goals,” Hayden said. “It was difficult for me to internalize lessons and concepts when they were crammed into a shorter session.” Hayden said if DePaul was on the semester system, she may have stayed. Other transfer students share similar opinions as Hayden.

“Information is better explained as there’s more time” said Natalia Cárdenas said, a graduate student studying political science at DePaul. Before DePaul, she went to Harold Washington College, which runs on a semester system.

A study Iowa State University conducted shows that student perceptions of their learning environment were significantly shaped by factors at work in that environment. If students think a time restraint will pressure them, they are more likely to feel stressed. Students who typically struggled with school found semesters to be more beneficial and did not feel as pressured. The common pros that were associated with semesters in the study were “more time to study topics in depth, extended projects, stronger relationships with professors, and increased opportunities for faculty research.”

Hayden is not the only one to feel this way, and lack of time is the biggest critique against the quarter system.

“I prefer 16 weeks to commit to each course. If classes were only 10 weeks, there wouldn’t have been enough time for me to feel fully accomplished learning content from each course,” Andrea Keltz, a recent graduate in biology from Stephens College, said. She additionally had a minor in chemistry, worked at Starbucks part time and was the student president of her graduating class.

Another issue brought up was that because  most schools are on the semester system, it is easier to be on a system that everyone follows.

“Quarters start school too late in the year and ended well into what I was accustomed to be my summer vacation,” said Sarah Pelaez, a recent graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. “I preferred being on a more common schedule.”

Although I am happy I transfered to DePaul, I miss the semester system. At the end of the day this is not a competition, but rather a personal choice. In my dream world, I — a Type B — would be attending my last semester at DePaul. Here I am instead, in my last winter quarter with many more weeks ahead.

1 Comment

One Response to “Can semesters save us?”

  1. Cathy Curtis on January 29th, 2019 4:39 pm

    Interesting take on semesters. Might you point me to the Iowa State University study to which you referred in this piece?

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Can semesters save us?