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Michigan Trees Changing Color in Fall

One of the most distinctive parts of the Dartmouth academic experience is our ten-week quarter system. The actual number of weeks each term varies a little (for example, classes in the fall of 2020 had 9 weeks and two days of actual learning, not including reading period and finals) but it all evens out rather well. Having a quarter system also means that most Dartmouth students only take three courses each term instead of four but we still end up graduating with more courses than people at other colleges (36 instead of 32).

For some people, the ten-week system moves too fast and they learn better in a 16-week semester. College in general already moves faster than high school because whole-year courses are now taught in one term in college. On top of managing your social life, your extracurriculars, and your own well-being, you may find that having a semester-style college experience is what allows you to keep yourself afloat and healthy. The semester-system may also have fewer and less frequent high-stress events since the same amount of work is spread over a longer time period. I highly encourage you to sit down and think about the implications of a quarter system and a semester system before you commit to a school because at some point, it won't just be a "preference" anymore but will actually affect your studies.

Quarters vs Semesters: breaking down timeline of fall term
This is an infographic sort of showing you the timeline / progression of events during fall term at Dartmouth this year and at other institutions. The first row of boxes shows how long students are in school at other colleges on a semester based system. The second row shows the sole three months that Dartmouth students studied this fall in comparison to the first row!

When I was applying to colleges, I sat down with my family and friends and talked this topic out with them so that I could have people to bounce ideas off of. It was then that I realized I am someone who enjoys shorter-term gratification and goals, focusing on fewer things at once but doing them all 110%. I noticed that I felt burnt out at the end of 16-week semesters and decided that, if I could, I would go to a school with shorter terms.

And that's why I love the quarter system! I am able to personalize my education to my needs, which so happens to be working really hard for a shorter period of time and then having the ability to reset. It also allows me to focus on three courses at once instead of juggling more classes. I usually delegate this as one class for my pre-med requirements, one class for my major, and one class for my minor or other electives. While I don't have much wiggle room to take other classes, I am able to really explore a lot of interests within the scope of my major and minor.

Being on the quarter system also means that I usually get off from fall term before Thanksgiving and don't have to worry about final exams during break. That was always my least favorite part of school because I worry about my grades for a long time, even after I've taken the test. Having everything move at a faster pace gives me more ease of mind because things aren't dragging on forever and I usually know what is going on at any point in time. We also get an extremely long winterim break between winter and fall quarter, which is so nice to use as a break or to prolong your internship or research project when you're an upperclassman.

China Forbidden Palace
Because of the long 6-week break between fall term and winter term, I was able to go to China for two weeks to volunteer last year *and* relax at home for another four weeks with family and friends!

In general, I love the quarter system because it 1) moves quickly enough for me to not get burnt out towards the end, 2) allows me to focus my course load on my interests and take more courses overall, 3) works nicely with vacations, Thanksgiving/holiday break, etc., and 4) we have so many chances to start over and begin afresh. Sometimes, you need an external motivator to get yourself pumped up again to do work, and whether it's quickly approaching finals or the start of a new term, Dartmouth students have the ability to get this dose of motivation more times per year than the average student. So if you also like sprints instead of marathons, consider applying to Dartmouth!

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