How long is a college semester? One college semester roughly consists of 15 weeks along with the winter break that lies between the fall semester and spring semester and the summer break that comes after the spring semester. It collectively contains 3.453 months excluding the spring and summer breaks.
What is a semester?
Word semester is originated from Latin and stands for “six months”. In the United States, a semester constitutes the half academic year and two of them make a full academic year. The semesters are named as:
- Fall semester
- Spring semester
But the academic year usually doesn’t include the summer, so a college semester consists of approximately four and ½ months.
However, the length of it is variable depending upon the rules and regulations of each individual institutes.
Generally, a college semester consists of 6 months including the session break. Credits in a semester are variable.
What is an academic quarter?
Usually, a semester system divides the full academic year into 2 sessions, one in the fall session and the second is the spring session. Each session is known as a semester and consists of half of the year including the summer and spring breaks.
While a quarter system divides the academic year into 4 parts:
1. Fall session
2. Winter session
3. Spring session
4. Summer session
Although the summer session is not needed yet it can be utilized to complete the remaining syllabus in the makeup classes that were left during the regular session.
In the quarter system, each session consists of roundabout ten weeks. approximately 10 weeks. Students can attend four or five classes in each session, depending upon the credit hours of each session ad credits of each individual class.
As compared to the regular colleges and universities that prefer a semester system, the community colleges and the colleges that offer associate degree programs are more inclined to apply this quarter system.
What is an academic trimester?
The trimester system is yet another system to split a whole academic year. As the name indicates, the trimester splits the year into three sessions
- Fall session
- Winter session
- Spring session
Length of each of these trimesters is roughly 12-13 weeks. During each trimester, the students can attend four or more than four classes depending upon the credits of each class and credit hours for each trimester.
Various institutes that are applying a trimester system often include a summer session that is similar to the quarter system in which makeup classes are conducted to cover the remaining syllabi.
In America, the trimester system has been applied by a lot of middle and high schools while the higher institutes like colleges and universities apply the semester system.
Calendars for the academic year of every institute help the students in comprehension of their schedule, credits for each class, and the total credits needed to complete the degree.
Semester in high school
In the USA most of the higher education institutions are using this system with each semester consisting of fourteen to sixteen weeks according to the academic calendar.
However, with the increasing system of online classes and online schools, a semester can be six to nine weeks long depending upon the calendar of each school.
At few times, the spring or summer holidays are part of the semester and if the classes can’t be conducted properly as in present corona conditions, the extra classes are not part of the high school semester.
Sometimes, when the situations are worst and the classes are not conducted, it’s possible that the whole semester gets canceled and students are simply upgraded in the next semester according to the previous grades.
Days in a school year
Regarding the days in a school year, a complete school year may consist of 160 to 180 days and may be prolonged. In this way, a semester which consists of a half year includes 80 to 90 days.
Weeks in a school year
- Considering the 5 school days in each year, a school semester consists of 14.5 or 15 weeks. Breaks are also included in the school year that is usually not part of it.
How long is a semester at high school?
It means that the students will take four to six courses that constitute approximately 30 credits each semester.
As long as the high schools in Canada are considered, the regular academic year of a high school is starting from the start of September and end at the end of May.
Holiday pattern is usually consisting of Christmas break (about 2 weeks long), spring holidays (one week of march), and the longest break for summer holidays that lasts for two months.
A regular academic year at high school usually consists of two semesters each one covering 6 months including the holidays.
First semester ends at the end of January followed by a short break for exam preparation and then exams are conducted.
Second one then starts after few days break.
Occasionally, there are small intercession terms that are adjusted between the lengthy holidays of winter and summer. These shorter terms usually consist of 3 to 4 weeks to cover a few essential courses.
As summer breaks are usually longer in the colleges, these colleges arrange one or two of these terms that maybe 7 to 8 weeks long.
Optional and mandatory intercessions
Some colleges keep the intercessions as optional, which means if the students want to some or not, while the other colleges make them mandatory for students to attend them.
Another difference between these two is the optional terms usually require the extra tuition fee e.g. the fee is not included in the regular fee of the students.
While the mandatory sessions do not require the extra tuition and the fee for intercession is included in the regular fee of the student.
Single longer intercession
Yet some other institutions offer a single but longer summer intercession that is mostly optional and students who want to join it have to pay extra charges. Sometimes a two-week intercession is offered in summer break by some colleges.
Credit hour can be defined as the single hour in the classroom or under the lecture delivered by faculty and at least two hours outside the classroom in a week.
One semester consists of a minimum of fifteen weeks and hence fifteen credits.
The credit hour time can be completed by doing the equivalent work at a different routine to complete the credit hours for a semester or trimester
Approximately the same amount of work that is discussed in the above paragraph for other activities that are mandatory by the relevant institute.
These activities can consist of lab work, practical, internship, and other activities that lead to the awarding of credit hours.
Although it is considered that a semester consists of approximately fifteen weeks, yet it can be variable depending upon the policies of institutes.
At some universities, one academic year may consist of a semester containing thirteen weeks.
When a student gets transferred from a semester system to the institute with a quarter system, his credits require to be converted to best fit in the credit system of the new institute.
Conversion of quarter credits to the semester credits can be done by a general formula:
To convert the quarter credits into semester credits, the quarter credits are divided by the factor 1.5.
|3 quarter credits divided by 1.5||=||2-semester credits|
|4 quarter credits divided by 1.5||=||3.07 semester credits|
|180 quarter credits divided by 1.5||=||120 semester credits|
Now, to convert the semester credits into quarter credits, we have to multiply the semester credits by a factor of 1.5
|2-semester credits multiplied with 1.5||=||3.0 quarter credits|
|4-semester credits multiplied with 1.5||=||6.0 quarter credits|
|60 semester credits multiplied with 1.5||=||90 quarter credits|
Hence, according to the above calculations, 3 quarters are equal to the 2 semesters. This ratio can be shown as 1.5=1.0.
According to this 3/2 ratio, we can easily convert the credits from one system to the credits of another.
Credit hours in semester system
If a semester consists of approximately 15 credit hours, then two semesters will be consisting of 30 credit hours. Hence, one year contains 30 credit hours.
Similarly, the 2-year degree program is equal to about 60 credit hours and the 4-year program contains double of it.
Credit hours in the quarter system
If a quarter system consists of 15 credits, and each year consists of three quarters, then the credit hours in one year will be equal to 45. So, a two-year degree contains 90 credit hours, and so on.
Classroom hours in a semester
Usually, the students have to attend the lectures for about 3 hours per week to earn the three credits. Five classes in each semester offer the credit of 15 hours to a student.
Classroom hours in a Quarter
In a quarter system, the students take one class of one hour for five days a week. It is equal to 5 credits per week. To earn fifteen credits, each student attends the 3 classes in each quarter. 5 credits in a quarter are generally equal to the 3 credits in a semester.
How many quarters in a high school?
Various schools divide the whole academic year into four equal parts, each part consisting of 11-12 weeks.
Three parts constitute a trimester and are mandatory as the usual academic year while the fourth one is optional and falls in the summer break.
It’s generally optional and students who are interested can join it by paying an extra fee.
Higher education authorities traditionally apply two types of systems for the conduction of classes in a regular academic year.
These systems are:
1. Semester system
2. Quarter system
In the former system, each year is split into two sessions, the fall semester and the spring semester. The length of each session is variable depending upon the institute’s policy and academic calendar.
Sometimes, a short session consisting of three to four weeks is planned in January and is termed as J-term (J=January).
While the quarter system divides the whole year into four parts. The length of the quarters varies according to the institute and ranges between 10 to 12 weeks approximately.
In these both types of systems, students usually get their degree after two years or four years depending upon the program in which they are studying.
Master vs bachelor degree
Masters degree gets completed in 4 semesters constituting two years while the graduation degree gets completed in 16 semesters or four years. These two systems are different from each other regarding length and credit hours.
So, if a student gets transferred from an institute that has a semester system to another institute applying a quarter system, credit hours may cause a lot of confusion.
Semester vs term
While talking about the meaning of semester, the semester means six months, similarly trimester stands for 3 months and is usually used during the pregnancy called as first trimester or second trimester and so on.
In contrast to trimester, the semester does not consist of exactly 6 months although it lies between four to six months.
Term does not indicate a specific duration and the duration in a term can be variable. In the United Kingdom, most of the universities are working in regard to terms.
Three terms are given as:
While some other universities divide the academic year into semesters. Few of them have both of these i.e. term system and the semester system.
Frequently asked questions
You may have some other questions regarding the academic system. Some of these questions have been briefly answered below:
1. How long is a college semester in months?
Semester usually consists of half of the year as the Latin meaning of the semester is “six months” and each academic year is divided into two semesters.
But the semester does not include the summer break that lasts for about 2 months, so the semester is generally consisting of four months in most of the educational institutes.
2. How many semesters in a college year?
One college year consists of two semesters as a single semester covers the half academic year. The fall semester starts in the months of August or September and the spring semester starts in January.
Some schools that operate according to the semester system, mostly offer a short intercession during the summer break. It can be mandatory or optional depending upon the institute.
3. How long is 4-semester in college?
As the name indicates, a semester consists of 6 months, which means it covers a half year. Four semesters make the two years collectively.
Usually, the bachelor degree programs get completed in four years containing 8 semesters and the master’s degree is completed in two years that consist of 4 semesters.
4. What is the first semester of college called?
In a number of universities in the USA, there is a three-semester system.
- Fall semester
- Spring semester
- Summer semester
Each of them consists of four months. The first semester of the year that starts in the mid of august is usually referred to as the Autumn or fall semester.
5. What is meant by transfer credits?
Some institutes operate the semester system and the others use the quarter system. If a student changes the institute that has a different system than the other one, he may need to convert the credit hours of one system to the other. Students have to cover the extra credits if they are remaining to complete the duration for a degree.
Students mostly wonder that how long is a college semester? A college semester is approximately equal to the fifteen to sixteen weeks excluding the summer and spring break.
While converting in the months, one semester consists of roundabout four months. If summer and spring breaks are including, it becomes equal to six months.
Each semester contains the fifteen credit hours to complete the credit hours for awarding of the degree.