Quarters vs. Semesters: Which is Better for College?

Metaphor of comparing apples to oranges on a balance beam isolated on white and the oranges are not as heavy or light.

When it comes to applying to college, it is obvious that you spend a great deal of time comparing different potential schools. This one has a great campus. This one has a talented faculty. This one offers several majors I like. This one has a good football team! But there are equally important other “factors” to consider.

One of those factors is how the school terms fall. The great majority of schools follow a semester schedule. A semester is normally 14-16 weeks long. Most schools offer a fall semester and a spring semester. And for those diligent students who are trying to finish quickly, there is a summer “semester” (though often not a full 14-16 weeks).

The semester schedule is the norm, but it is not the only option. The other popular term schedule is known as the “quarter” schedule. Whereas the semester is based on the idea of semi- (half), the quarter is based on one-fourth. That is, there are 4 different quarters per school year (fall, winter, spring, summer). The quarter term usually lasts between 10-12 weeks.

One advantage of quarters is that there are 4 start dates. Maybe you missed the start of the “Fall Semester” at one school. But in a quarter system, you don’t have to wait half a year. Instead, you merely wait a couple of months and there is a new start! At Carolina College of Biblical Studies, our campus classes begin every September, December, March, and June.

However, one disadvantage of quarters vs. semesters is transfer credit. Because quarters are only 10-12 weeks long, as compared to the 14-16 weeks of a semester, accreditation only allows partial transfer credit. The equivalent of a 3-hour quarter class is 2-hours of transfer credit into a semester program. This often is confusing to students who are not familiar with the process. In fact, the numbers game can often deter students. An “associates degree” at a quarter-based school usually consists of 90 credits. At the semester school, the same degree is only 60 credits. But don’t forget that you’re not in class as long, and you are able to take more classes within the same time frame.

So really, the advantage may be to the Quarter-based school. Why? First, there are more start dates. Second, students are able to take more classes within the same time frame. Third, in-class time is less…reducing brain fatigue over particular topics. Fourth, breaks occur more often (between every quarter).

At CCBS, our campus program is built on a quarter-based system. We believe this benefits the student in so many ways. To find out more about how CCBS can help you reach your educational and spiritual goals, contact our Admissions Team at info@ccbs.edu.