Quarter System Colleges: Life of a Trimester Student

I attend one of the quarter system colleges in Illinois, North Central College. A small, 4-year liberal arts school seated smack dab in the outer burbs of Chicago, IL. Like any other college, the campus community thrives with a solid academic base and an exuberant amount of school spirit.

However, unlike most colleges that begin their 16 week semesters in early-August, NCC students don’t return to campus until an entire month after. We also have a six week winter break that extends from Thanksgiving to New Year’s where we start up classes again and don’t end till what feels like mid-summer, but is actually only the beginning of June.

How is this possible you ask? North Central College is one of those quarter system colleges that runs on a little system called “trimesters.” Three ten week terms; fall, spring and winter. In the trimester system, a six week winter break begins immediately after the end of fall term. During these six weeks, there is a three week period at the beginning known as “December Term” or “D-Term.” During this time, students have a variety of options as to how (or where) to spend these three weeks until campus closes; whether that means staying on campus to take a class or just work, or head home for the month and a half they have off, the choice is totally up to them.

Ask anyone who attends one of the many quarter system colleges and they will list off the same benefits to trimesters.

1. Ten weeks of class, then you’re done!

Ten weeks goes by fast. Say you enroll in a class that you don’t particularly enjoy but are required to take. No bother! Ten weeks of that class and you complete the requirement and don’t have to suffer through an additional six to seven weeks like you would on a semester system. But like I said, ten weeks goes by fast. There really is no time for dilly-dallying. Crunch time is all the time. For all you busybodies out there, like myself, this is the perfect way of college life for you!

2. One hyphenated word: D-term.

D-term is another wonderful benefit of attending quarter system colleges. Stay on campus to take a class and get a good chuck of credits out of the way. Stay on campus and don’t take a class; just work near or for your college and earn a few extra bucks. Or just go home for a nice six week winter break. The possibilities are endless! One thing I am looking into for my next D-term is to study abroad. During the three week period that campus is still open, most colleges on a trimester system offer many service trips or study abroad (for credit) classes that are done in just two-three weeks. This is a great way for people who don’t necessarily want to spend a great amount of time, as in months, off studying abroad, but still want to travel during their college experience.

3. Ability to get a lot of classes out of the way.

A lot of work can be done in three whole terms. Don’t get me wrong, the same amount of credits can be achieved at the end of the year as a semester school. However, there is definitely a larger variety of classes you can take in just one year at a trimester school. I have found personally that attending one of the quarter system colleges tends to keep my focus a bit more and is a nice refreshing break from feeling like I am taking the same subject over and over again.

4. Start school in September, end in June.

Now this one is probably up for debate. I admit, that during the end of August and May, you tend to feel a little anxious and antsy to either get back to school or head home since trimesters start so late and end so late. Yet, there are still plenty of benefits to this. For example, since most schools are not quarter system colleges and run on semesters, all your friends are back at school already by mid-August. This is the perfect time to take a trip to visit them! Or, vice versa, when everyone is out of school and you are still plugging away into week seven, having your friends come visit you at school is always a nice break away from studying.

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Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson is a junior at North Central College in Naperville, IL pursuing degrees in journalism and interactive media studies. When she is not in the classroom, she balances her time playing for her school’s softball team and working at a local frozen yogurt shop. Jordan enjoys watching movies, thumb wars, and occasional trips into the windy city.
Jordan Johnson

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