The summer vacation season has begun…except for at most UCs. Last week marked the end of the academic year at many semester colleges as they concluded their final examination periods — meanwhile, UCI students have three more weeks until the end of the academic year. UCI’s quarter system is a caffeinated version of the traditional and sedate 16-week semester system; on the quarter system students are overwhelmed by the compressed and rapid nature of 10-week academic periods. While our peers on the semester system are enjoying their third week of summer vacation, we will be squeezing our brains for our finals week. This academic year has gone so fast, that students have not had the opportunity to appreciate the long term benefits that the quarter system had to offer
As masochistic as it sounds, the lack of leisure time during the quarter system enhances time management skills of students and makes our summer breaks even more enjoyable. Here at UCI, students are always occupied with studying, working, exercising or performing extracurricular activities, and none of them loiter around campus as much as they want. One might argue that this constant activity helps avoid the boredom of a suburban campus located in the least youth-friendly city in Southern California. However, when the vacation period starts, one thing is sure, students who finished their quarters are going to maximize the enjoyment of their break . When someone who used to hectic schedule, is exposed to a period of lethargy, ze is going to bore with easy and will start to seek for activities that maintain the pace of zir schedule. Thus you can expect everything from an anteater break — except boredom.
Another positive trait of the quarter system is the flexibility it offers to students who want to improve their GPA. In the semester system, students are confined to two semesters and two summer sessions. Thus, the amount of classes taken in a two-semester year averages out to 24 units. On the other hand, a three-quarter year allows for a minimum of 36 units, if the student is full-time. The possibility of having more classes distributed through the same year gives students more opportunities to improve their GPAs.
Obviously the semester system has its benefits as most American higher education institutions prefer it over the quarter one. A study by the National Association of College Stores, a trade association representing the campus retail industry, discovered that 71.2 percent of the 4,373 colleges surveyed used the semester system, while only 14.7 percent used the quarter system. The American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers found that between 1990 to 2001,colleges using the semester system increased by 8 percent. The appeal of the 16-week academic period resides in its length. One quarter does not always provide enough time to cover all the material that is relevant to the course. Additionally, more spaced-out examination periods allows students and professors to recover from the exhaustion created by the midterms and finals weeks.
Although colleges in the quarter system are an oddity in the American higher education system, they offer a more energetic environment. Take UCI as an example, every week there are multiple activities taking place on campus, from guest speakers to organizations selling delicious food to collect funds. It is not unusual to see students protesting against inequality or arguing with contentious people that preach around the campus. Aside from non-academic events, some classes even have tests and projects due on most of the 10 weeks of a quarter. It is safe to say that the quarter system is an adventure,
The quarter system furthers students’ time management skills and GPAs because of its expeditious and flexible division of the academic year. Being on a quarter system has taught me that diligence is sacred because every class counts from the beginning while the semester system can be more forgiving. The fact that we all are in that system leaves us no other choice than to enjoy it. It is fast, short lived and energetic, but most importantly, it makes us appreciate the little time we have.
Sebastian Suarez is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.