Exploring the Unique Benefits of the Quarter System

Mar 26, 2019 by

Giving the Quarter System the Credit it Deserves

One of the interesting parts of university education is how diverse one school can be from the next. Even two public state schools can have two totally different approaches to education. Sometimes there are minimal consequences with very few tangible influences on the way students learn and live. Other times, these different approaches cause ripples that can be felt in each facet of students’ lives. The structure of academic scheduling falls into the latter category.

How the Quarter System Works

When it comes to higher education, there are two types of academic schedules: the semester system and the quarter system. The majority of schools follow the semester system, but there are still those that use the quarter system to teach students.

“The quarter system divides the academic year into three quarters – fall, winter and spring. The fourth quarter, which is considered the summer session, gives students another chance to take more classes and possibly graduate early,” Study.com explains.

4 Distinct Benefits of the Quarter System

Though just 14.7 percent of colleges and universities actually implement a quarter system, those that do enjoy the distinct benefits it yields professors, students, and administrators.  While there are pros and cons to the semester system – we’re going to highlight the advantages:

1.     More Classes

With the quarter system, students have three grading periods per school year. When compared to the standard two grading periods, this allows students more opportunities for learning.

“Quarter-system students normally take three to four classes per quarter while semester students tend to take four to five classes per grading period,” Asad Ramzanali writes for Daily Bruin. “On average, quarter-system students take six more classes than semester-system students in their undergraduate careers.”

Having six more classes gives a student a head start on graduating with a second major, or the opportunity to take more classes in areas of personal interest. For students and parents that want to stretch their dollars further, this makes a lot of sense.

2.     School Starts Later

While semester students get out of school a month earlier in the spring, they also go back at the beginning of August. Quarter system students go back nearly a month later – after Labor Day weekend. This gives students the chance to enjoy the last bits of summer before returning to the classroom.

3.     Streamlined Learning Experience

With the quarter system, everything happens much faster. For some, this rapid pace can be alarming. But for most, it represents a far more efficient use of time.

“We get a fresh start every 10 weeks: It’s like with the blink of an eye, your ‘bad grade’ from last quarter is magically gone, no longer weighing down your conscience,” Stanford student Serena Soh writes. “We get to try out more new classes without compromising our ability to fulfill major requirements. And if you get tired or bored of a specific class, all you have to do is stick it out for a few more weeks.”

By squeezing classes into shorter periods of time, there are less wasted resources and far greater efficiency. With as much as college education costs these days, that’s a good thing.

4.     Preparation For the Real World

Without knocking the semester system – which clearly has its value in higher education – it’s easy to see how the quarter system prepares students for the real world.

In the real world – particularly the business world – things happen fast. You don’t always have four or five months to catch up when you fall behind. You can’t always miss a meeting and assume that there will be one next week. The quarter system commands proactive decision making and excellence. And in a world where these don’t seem to be pressing priorities for most folks, this type of education can help graduates get ahead of their peers.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Not everyone responds to the same type of teaching and learning. So while the semester system may be used at the majority of schools, there’s plenty of value in the quarter system. For students, professors, and administrators alike, this is a format worth exploring.

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