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Semesters vs. Quarters

There is an ongoing debate over whether higher education institutions should use the semester or quarter system. Some argue that a semester system lends to a better learning experience for a student.  Others debate that a quarter system will provide students more flexibility. Here we take a look at semesters vs. quarters.

Semesters vs. quarters


The semester system has two academic terms: fall and spring. The fall semester usually begins in August and the spring semester in January. Each semester is 15 weeks. Full-time students typically take 4-5 classes each semester. There is usually a winter break between semesters. The summer semester is optional. About 90% of colleges in the United States run on the semester system, according to studyusa.com.

Those who argue for the semester system believe that 15-week classes give the student a longer time to absorb class information. Students will gain more “quality” instruction because they are not memorizing facts.

A semester calendar might also be advantageous to those adjusting to college life because it gives them more time to prepare for their coursework. If they are having difficulty in a course, the semester calendar gives them longer to recuperate their grade.


The quarter system is divided in to three – fall, winter, and spring. The fourth quarter, which is considered the summer session, is optional. A normal quarter lasts 10-11 weeks, and full-

time students take about three classes each quarter. The fall quarter begins in September, the winter in November, and the spring quarter in March.

While many argue that the semester system gives students a better education, those who argue for the quarter system believe shorter classes give students more flexibility and more options.

Students are not taking as many classes if on the quarter system, so they are able to focus on their subjects since they are not taking as many courses.

Many believe that students in 10-week classes are less likely to fall behind since they are in shorter classes. They will have more opportunity to choose from different courses, and may find it easier to choose a minor since there is more of a variety of courses.

Not only that, but if a student is having difficulty in a course either with their instructor or course materials, they have a shorter time commitment.  

Probably the best pro-quarter argument is that students will remain more focused. If they have less downtime between their winter and spring breaks, a student may have an easier time getting back in to the groove of their studies. 

Transferring Credits:

A big concern with the semester vs. quarter system is how it affects the transfer of credits from one school to the next. A common misconception to students is that they will lose credits when transferring. Semester credits are worth 1.5 more times than quarter credits. A school under the semester system requires 120 semester credits for a bachelor degree.  This is equivalent to a 180-credit bachelor degree under the quarter system.  

We are unique:

At CCBS we are unique because we offer both the systems. Our campus classes are based under the quarter system, whereas our online program is on the semester system.

Our online degree programs are also offered in an accelerated format, so the classes are 5-weeks long instead of a traditional 15-week semester. Instead of taking 4-5 classes though, our online students take one class at a time. The pace is definitely quicker, but students are able to focus on one class instead of several at a time. 

If you are interested in learning more about our campus and online degree program, please feel free to contact a team member.