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The college calendar can affect the student experience more than you think. The majority of colleges now use the semester system consisting of 2 semesters of about 15 weeks each. Students find that they can take a variety of classes (usually about5) where the pace is more moderate than that of the quarter system. However, when exams roll around it can be highly stressful to study so many subjects simultaneously while completing projects and papers as well.
There are still a fair number of colleges who use the quarter system including the University of Chicago, the University of Denver, Santa Clara University, and most of the University of California system. Quarters last about 10 weeks each and students tend to take 3 courses per quarter and study 3 quarters per year. College classes in the quarter system deliver material at warp speed so if you are the type of student who procrastinates, this intense study may not work well for you. Some students find that final exams and papers are much more manageable in the quarter system where you have 3 courses to worry about rather than 5 semester courses.
For an even deeper more intense educational experience you can go to the block plan where you study one course very intensely for about 3.5 weeks. One advantage of this arrangement is that you can easily take field trips or do all-consuming projects. So when the course is good... all is very, very good but when the course is bad, it can be horrid. Colorado College is known for this unique calendar.
There are also colleges that have semesters with a short January term in between. These are known as 4-1-4 calendars. The January term is for unique course offerings some even involving foreign travel. Middlebury College, Williams College, and Hartwick College all have this type of calendar.
A final factor that students may want to consider regarding the college calendar is how it relates to summer work. The colleges on the semester system usually start in late August and end in early May. This enables their students to start a summer job early which can be an advantage in the job market. On the other hand, students at colleges that begin after Labor Day may have an easier time getting jobs at summer resorts where it is important to have staffing through Labor Day.