Long before I transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, I heard the grumblings of students commenting on the seemingly god-awful quarter system. It was one of the biggest cautions that my friends at other universities warned me about. They said, “It’s so fast, and if you get behind, you won’t be able to catch up.” And after nearly finishing my first year here at UCSB I have to say I do understand the warning, but as a previously accustomed semester system student, I believe the fuss is way overblown.
I spent three full years at my junior college (Sierra College) in northern California before I transferred here. All three years were built upon the traditional academic bed rock known as a semester system. And now I have spent almost a year under the quarter system at UCSB. So needless to say, I feel like I’ve had my share of both systems.
Technically according to dictionary.com a semester is, “a division constituting half of the regular academic year, lasting typically from 15 to 18 weeks.” My semesters at junior college were 16 weeks. The quarter system here at UCSB is 10 weeks plus finals week.
Although semester systems are clean and efficient, I am oh-so-glad to be done with them.
It’s not as much a knock on semester systems as it is just praise for quarter systems. I simply prefer the quarter system. You can take more classes, meet more professors, and get exposure to a greater variety of subjects, which ultimately, I believe, enhances the college academic experience. Basically, you get more. The only down side is that the classes move a lot quicker, which is nothing to sneeze about it.
Here’s what UCSB Admissions had to say regarding transferring: “Plan for a faster pace. Transfer students familiar with the semester system may find that it takes some time to adjust to the different rhythm of the quarter system. The faster pace means learning to budget your time well—you cannot afford to get behind in your reading or coursework — and expecting midterm exams to come around more quickly.”
I’d say this was a fair warning. I remember my first week of school here at UCSB and learning that I would be taking my midterms between the fourth and fifth week of school. I was used to taking midterms around my eighth week of school. This was a tad bit alarming, but I have to say, I think it made me a better student. It kept me on my toes. I can personally attest that in a semester system one can coast through his or her classes way more than a student can in a quarter system.
Quarter system students have to be on their A-game almost all the time. There is very little room to fall behind, and in return, I feel it makes us tremendously harder workers and ultimately better students than those in a semester system. Also, if you don’t like a class, you don’t have to wait long to be rid of it forever.
According to the U.S. News National University Rankings and College Express.com, only five schools in the top 20 rankings are on a quarter system. After experiencing both systems, I find the quarter system more stimulating. Perhaps the semester system would make it easier for first-years to adjust to college, but I feel like the system weeds out those hoping to drift through college without putting in the work. And I’ve heard the argument that more time in one class means more time interacting with professors one on one. That’s fine and all, but more classes means meeting more professors and developing more relationships with a vaster variety of professionals. In short, it means more networking.
We live in a high-speed racetrack of a world. God forbid the day when we graduate and have to apply what we have learned here into the real world, but we will be prepared all the more for having gone through a quarter system. We will have already been tested with speed and responsibility. We will have been tested with a more rigorous, on-your-toes, and nonstop system that demands your attention. And isn’t college all about preparing us for life after college anyways? Ultimately, I think it boils down to the individual, but when you compare the two systems, the quarter system is hands down better across the board.
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