Semester vs Quarter System Explained & Full List of Colleges

July 25, 2023

As a prospective student entering the bustling world of higher education, you’ve found yourself facing a critical decision: the choice between the semester and quarter systems. So what exactly sets these two systems apart? Today, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the semester vs quarter debate, explore the difference between semester and quarter hours, demonstrate how to convert quarter to semester credits, and shed light on the unending quarter vs semester battle.

Meanwhile, you’re likely facing countless other uncertainties as you compare the schools and courses you’re interested in. But you don’t have to feel overwhelmed! Arm yourself with information by exploring curricular fluidity, your degree vs your major, your major vs your minor, in-state vs out-of-state tuition, social mobility, and campus safety.

The difference between semester and quarter hours

So what does the semester vs quarter system look like? The semester system divides the academic year into two equal halves. Each semester typically lasts 15 weeks. And the semester system assigns 1 credit hour for a course that meets for about 2.5 hours per week. So students experience approximately 37.5 hours of instruction per course.

While the quarter system splits the academic year into three-quarters of 10 to 11 weeks. And the quarter system usually assigns 1 credit hour for a course that meets for about 3 hours per week. This results in approximately 30-33 hours of instruction per course.

On paper (or webpage) this isn’t an enormous difference. But when put into practice over four years, students will likely feel the impact.

Semester vs quarter system: which should you choose?

Speaking of time, have you checked the clock? Because it’s time for some pros and cons!

Semester system pros:

  1. With longer course durations, the semester system allows for comprehensive coverage of the subject matter. This can foster a deeper understanding and mastery of the material.
  2. Extended semesters provide more time for students to engage in research projects and participate in academic initiatives.
  3. This structure usually allows for a more evenly distributed workload throughout the term, reducing the pressure during exams and assignments.
  4. Longer breaks between semesters offer students opportunities for internships, travel, or personal enrichment. This promotes a healthier work-life balance.

And semester system cons:

  1. Due to the longer duration of each course, students may have fewer opportunities to explore a wide range of subjects.
  2. The fixed semester schedule might not be suitable for those who prefer more flexibility or want to accelerate their progress. In fact, according to a recent study, this lack of flexibility may cause delays in graduation for some students. Although the study’s authors clarify that the problem is not necessarily the semester system. More accurately, this problem arises from improper academic support combined with an inflexible course calendar.
  3. With fewer grading periods, students may have limited chances to improve their GPA quickly.

Semester vs. Quarter System (Continued)

Quarter system pros:

  1. The quarter system allows students to take a more extensive variety of courses, exposing them to diverse subjects.
  2. With shorter terms, students can complete their academic requirements faster. They can potentially graduate earlier or take more elective courses.
  3. More grading periods offer students more opportunities to track their progress and improve their performance throughout the year.
  4. The fast pace of the quarter system can develop students’ adaptability and time-management skills, preparing them for real-world challenges.

And quarter system cons:

  1. On the other hand, the fast pace can be overwhelming for some students. It may lead to higher stress levels and potential burnout.
  2. Shorter courses may restrict the amount of time available for students to engage in in-depth research projects or undertake complex assignments.
  3. Because study abroad programs typically use semesters, students may be limited in which study abroad programs they can participate in. Similarly, internships often use the semester system as well. So students may find that the quarter system impacts their internship opportunities.
  4. Students may have fewer chances to build strong relationships with their professors and peers.

Semester vs. Quarter System (Continued)

Choosing between the semester and quarter systems depends on the individual’s learning preferences, academic goals, and personal circumstances. Both systems offer distinct advantages and challenges. And both systems give students unique paths to pursue their intellectual and personal growth. Consider the difference between semester and quarter hours, the pros, the cons, etc. But most importantly, consider you what you want and need. As more and more students struggle with their mental health, it’s important to make a decision that’s realistic for you. So which side should you take in the semester vs quarter battle? I don’t know! You tell me!

Quarter vs semester system: which schools use the quarter system?

In the quarter vs semester battle, these are all the schools that remain steadfast on the side of the quarter system. Let’s take a look.

(Note: you’ll find all but two of the undergraduate UC schools here!)

Institution Location
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA
Capella University Minneapolis, MN
Central Washington University Ellensburg, WA
Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
DePaul University Chicago, IL
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
Eastern Oregon University La Grande, Oregon
Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA
Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA
Louisiana Tech University Ruston, LA
Milwaukee School of Engineering Milwaukee, WI
Northwestern University Evanston, IL
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls, OR
Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
Pacific Union College Angwin, CA
Portland State University Portland, OR
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Terre Haute, IN
Santa Clara University Santa Clara, CA
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA
Seattle Pacific University Seattle, WA
Seattle University Seattle, WA
Southern Oregon University Ashland, OR
Stanford University Stanford, CA
The Evergreen State College Olympia, WA
University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barabara, CA
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
University of California, Davis Davis, CA
University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA
University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA
University of California, San Diego La Jolla, CA
University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA
University of Chicago Chicago, IL
University of Denver Denver, CO
University of Oregon Eugene, OR
University of Washington, Seattle Seattle, WA
University of Washington, Tacoma Tacoma, WA
Walla Walla University College Place, WA
Western Oregon University Monmouth, OR
Western Washington University Bellingham, WA

Semester vs quarter system: which schools use the semester system?

Well, pretty much all the other schools in America that aren’t included in the table above. Just for fun, let’s take a look at a few of the schools fighting on the side of the semester system. But remember, unlike the previous list, this list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other schools using the semester system.

Semester vs. Quarter System (Continued)

(Note: you’ll find the remaining two UC schools here!)

Institution Location
Amherst College Amherst, MA
Boston University Boston, MA
Brown University Providence, RI
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
Colby College Waterville, ME
Columbia University New York, NY
Cornell University Ithaca, NY
Duke University Durham, NC
Harvard University Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cambridge, MA
New York University New York, NY
Notre Dame University Notre Dame, IN
Princeton University Princeton, NJ
Purdue University West Lafayette, IN
Tulane University New Orleans, LA
University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA
University of California, Merced Merced, CA
University of Florida Gainesville, FL
University of Maryland College Park, MD
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin
Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC
Williams College Williamstown, MA
Yale University Hartford, CT

Math for transfer students: quarter to semester credits

The heart of the semester vs quarter battle lies not only in the calendar but also in the credits. And if you’re a prospective transfer student, you may wonder how a move to the other calendar system can affect your credits. Well, you’ll need to convert from quarter to semester credits. Or vice versa. The trick to this conversion is to know the credit hour ratios between the two systems.

Usually, the quarter system uses a 1:1.5 credit hour ratio compared to the semester system. Which means that one-quarter credit is equal to 1.5-semester credits. Now let’s do a little math:

Converting Quarter Credits to Semester Credits:

  • To convert quarter credits to semester credits, use the formula: quarter credits * 1.5 = semester credits.
  • For example, say a student earned 12 quarter credits. 12 * 1.5 = 18-semester credits.

Converting Semester Credits to Quarter Credits:

  • Or to convert semester credits to quarter credits, use the formula: semester credits / 1.5 = quarter credits.
  • For example, say a student completed 30-semester credits. 30 / 1.5 = 20 quarter credits.

Keep in mind that some institutions may use slightly different credit hour ratios. So for an accurate credit transfer, always verify with your academic advisor or the university’s registrar’s office.

Semester vs. Quarter System – Final thoughts

Well, we’ve navigated through the semester vs quarter battle, examined the difference between semester and quarter hours, and delved into the complexities of quarter-to-semester credits. We’ve discovered the semester and quarter systems each carry their own distinct merits and quirks. Now armed with all this newfound knowledge, you’re equipped to choose the system that matches you and your rhythm. But ultimately, the structure of time won’t impact your experience as much as the passion, dedication, and curiosity you’ll bring with you.