The Quarter System

by Brianna Lee

As I finish up the first year of my Higher Education Master's program, I’ve realized that I’ve had to adjust to many changes in my life. I moved across the country by myself, not knowing anyone in my new home. I started a new job with new responsibilities. And I started my graduate program at the University of Denver (DU). Located in the beautiful state of Colorado, DU is a private university that operates on the quarter system. Before this, I had never heard of the quarter system and I think most people haven’t either. For DU it means that classes are 10 weeks long (not including finals), and are pretty intense. In my program, we typically take 2 classes per quarter with each class being once a week and lasting 3 and half hours. This means that we only have 10 classes per quarter. As someone who (like most people) went through 16 years of the semester system, making the switch to the quarter system was pretty jarring. Here are 10 things that I’ve experienced during the transition from semesters to fast-paced quarters:
  1. Syllabus week is no longer a thing. In undergrad, the first week of classes was like another week of summer; the professors went over the syllabus and let us leave. Week 1 of the quarter system, you dive right into the material. Don’t be surprised if there are assignments before classes even start.
  2. The quarter goes by quick. You’re just settling into the rhythm of your new classes and - it’s Week 5 already?! 
  3. Awkward breaks - Our spring quarter finishes after the first week of June. It’s so hard to see everyone on the semester system finishing finals and graduating, while we’re still hard at work for three more weeks. 
  4. Speaking of ending in June, this makes it harder to find internships and full time jobs at places that want you to start mid-May. Hopefully other institutions can be flexible!
  5. If you miss just one class, you miss 10% of the class (and potentially 10% of your participation grade). 
  6. When asked about how we’re feeling, “It’s week 8” is an acceptable response. Everyone’s extra tired, stressed, and seriously needing some self-care.
  7. You can take more classes during the academic year than you did on the semester system and cover more topics.
  8. If you don’t like a class, luckily it’s only for 10 weeks. It’ll be over before you know it.
  9. Unfortunately, the same goes for the classes that you like. Savor your time with these.
  10. Once the quarter is over, you feel a huge sense of accomplishment for making it through!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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