Quarter system vs. semester system

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All my sisters are at home for summer. Yep, that’s right. They’re home for summer. As in, they’ve finished their finals and are home for summer break. They got back two weeks ago. This means that they get to enjoy a whole extra month of summer! They start again in late August, and so they get May, June, July and most of August to enjoy their summer vacation. Four entire months.

Meanwhile, I don’t finish until the end of June because we’re on the quarter system, and my new school starts at the beginning of August – so they get four months of summer vacation and I get one. In what parallel universe is that fair?

My sisters go to West Virginia University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, both of which are schools that operate on the semester system. BC, like most community colleges, operates on the quarter system. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and I like being able to take more classes, but when the end is in sight for spring quarter, I’m seriously jealous of my semester sisters.

The pros of a quarter system are, of course, the ability to take four different sets of classes during a year – in a semester system, only three sets are possible.  This gives the serious student the ability to learn more and knock out classes faster. It’s pretty awesome, especially for community colleges, which typically filter students into four-year university programs. This lets students finish the prerequisites faster.

Maybe it’s my senioritis talking, but my pro list for quarter systems ends there. The fact that they do squeeze four sets of classes into a year means that they spend significantly less time on any given subject. A semester class usually lasts 14-16 weeks, and there’s only fall semester and spring semester (and then of course the shorter summer semester). Quarter systems have a month less time to cover the same material.

Semesters, while they allow for only a maximum of three sets of classes a year, spend more time on every subject so it’s not such a fast rush to get everything done on time. Other pros to the semester system include end time – they end early May, so they get more time to enjoy the summer – and laugh at those of us quarter system students who are still suffering it out in school. They start in August, while quarter systems start in September, but think about it – would you rather have May for summer or August?

I think BC should switch to the semester system, especially given the high percentage of students who transfer from BC to four-year colleges. They’re all on the semester system, and BC does so much already to give students every opportunity to succeed when it comes to transferring – so wouldn’t it make sense for them to continue to ease the transition from community to four-year college by using the same system?

Also, quarter systems are almost exclusively used with community colleges, and while BC is still governed by the Board of Community and Technical Colleges, we are transitioning from being Bellevue Community College to being the full-fledged Bellevue College, so it makes sense for the school’s image to convert to the system used by colleges and universities rather than the system used by community colleges.

BC has a lot on their plate right now, so I understand that converting to a semester system may be low on the priority list. But I think it’s a change the college should at least think about moving towards.