Quarter vs semester college system

D21 is a freshman at Cal Poly SLO, which is on the quarter system. The switch from semesters in HS to the quarter system wasn’t a big deal for her. I thought the transition would be hard.

And she just got an interview (next week) for an excellent summer internship. But she’s not majoring in CS or Engineering.

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I think the timing of internships is overblown. I am a small business owner who hires many students to work over the summer. Semester kids start in May but need to leave by mid August. Quarter kids start in June but I get them until the end of September.

One of my children is at a semester school and said that some of the internships she is applying for run from mid June to mid August.


This is my experience with my son - any internships that gave dates - and it’s maybe a third or half - they were 10-12 weeks and mid-may to either end July (like his last year) or mid-August.

He was able to choose two weeks to which start - a major Fortune 500 company.

He had to eliminate some this year to apply based on published dates (they ended too late) but I just asked him and he said most give specific dates.

But I totally understand with all the great schools on the quarter system, there has to be some give there.

My initial comment, as stated, was for U of Denver- my daughter’s BF is a first year and he made the comment based on info from his fraternity brothers - that it’s a problem. They are also very late. They are starting their 2nd quarter after xmas - so perhaps it’s school specific (as I originally noted). That said, Denver is a fine school - so I’m sure they are able to place people.

it’s all anecdotoal.

According to the school - in 2018 (the last year they have comparative date) - 88.4% had successful outcomes within 6 months vs. 85.9% for the US and 78.1% in the Rocky Mountain region.

They show the class of 19 at 90.3% but have no comparable data points of region or nation.

Of the students they reached (only 68.9%, seems low to me for a private) - 70.8% said they had at least one internship and 29.2% said none. Of course, we don’t know if that one was paid or not.

Perhaps, like anything else, that’s kid driven - but that seems awfully low to me.

But again, maybe it’s school specific.

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Many schools who do co-ops (Northeastern, RPI, etc.), do them during the school year and have their students make up the semester of academic work in summer(s). I would think that the quarter system presents advantages for doing this.

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Our sons experience was that internships dates were very flexible. He always included a late start or early end so he could include a vacation. This was for CS type internships.


S’s internships were scheduled for 8 weeks starting the third week of June (the week after quarter schools finish) and finishing in mid August (the week before semester schools start). This was the case for a DC think tank (sophomore year) and a west cost consulting internship (junior year).

In both cases he was able to extend into September, but the semester kids didn’t have the option of starting earlier at his consulting internship (a smaller firm with a more limited number of slots).


congrats to her

how did she transition from HS semester → quarter?

thanks so much everyone for the help so far

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Probably means going from a high school on semesters to a college on quarters.

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oh yeah i understood that part, but I was wondering what she did to have a smooth transition between those two systems


All in all nothing special.

Well, I’ll start by saying that I mentioned more than a few times to her that a 10-week class is going to move much faster than a 15-week course. So, don’t fall behind, because it’ll feel like quicksand.

Second, the Wednesday-Sunday before classes begin, Cal Poly SLO has a WOW (Week of Welcome). IIRC, with about 5,000 freshman, SLO puts freshman into groups of about 25 students. They have fun, they have seminars and they attempt to build a student an initial friend group, so freshman may not have to worry as much about their social acclimation. SLO does a great job with transition.

And as I’m sure most students do, you take your syllabuses and plan/map out your quarter, where the midterms, papers are finals are due/take place. I know my D21 had to strategically fall behind on the reading in one class, in order to study for a midterm in another class. It was unavoidable. But once the midterm was over, she had plow through all the reading. Thankfully, there were no tests or quizzes in that subject where she had briefly fell behind.

Lastly, make sure you get your 7-8-9 hours of sleep, and eat well, whatever works for you. But IMHO proper sleep and good food is important to success. Though, I’m sure there are people out there that can operate just fine with very little sleep and Taco Bell, at least in short spurts. :grin:

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thanks, this is very helpful

Yes, Dartmouth had a very different approach with this. They have a summer on campus that is required for all in that graduating class and this kind of forces an internship during a quarter when others are in normal semesters. The students we talked to discussed the pros and cons. One con was that friend groups shifted a lot due to people being on and off campus for study abroad semesters and the shifting schedules.

We found there were colleges with “hockey” quarters - only going three quarters - and colleges with 4 required quarters, like WPI. Some have classes that are in 2 parts like a traditional semester- potentially complicating schedules.


Here’s a negative of the quarter system IMO. Just happened with D21.

My D dropped a GE class that didn’t appeal to her, but she really wanted to add another one (GE as well). With a quarter system of 10 weeks, if you miss a week+ (11 days in my D’s case), and add a class, then you’re starting from way behind, because with quarters, that’s a sizable chunk of the class.

Or the professor will not allow you to join the new class, because a test, quiz and/or essay has been assigned and graded already.

With a semester system, a student may get about 2-3 weeks before the add/drop deadline hits, not the 12 days with a quarter system in which my D studies.

She did get another GE class, but she’s playing catch-up and should be all caught up by the end of today. :crossed_fingers:


It depends on the school. Some schools on quarter system also give students 2-3weeks for adding/dropping courses.

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Yes, I realize that. CC always assumes posters speak in absolutes and there aren’t any exceptions. :smile:

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thanks for your input, and gl to your daughter!

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One alternative is to start every semester or every quarter signed up for at least one additional class, and attend the extra class from the beginning. Then always drop the additional class well before the “do not appear on transcript at all” date.

Of course starting with an extra class will add to the work load, but if you drop the extra class within two weeks this only happens at the very beginning before the work load gets large. Generally within two weeks, and often within one week, you can figure out which classes you want to keep.

Whether this will work might depend upon which particularly university you are attending. I found that this worked very well in graduate school when I was on the quarter system. However, I attended a university with a relatively flexible “drop the class with no penalty” policy. There could also be an issue of the university charges by the class.

I do recall one case as an undergrad when I started attending two extra classes from day 1, but did not sign up for them. Then in the second week of the semester I needed to drop two other classes and sign up for these two classes. Fortunately both professors recognized me since I had been sitting in the first row. There was a tiny spot on the form for the professor to sign, so I very carefully divided it in two so that both could sign. One professor very neatly signed in his half of the space. The other professor took the pen, held it as if he was trying to stab someone with the pen, then wrote his last name across the entire form as large as possible. I was mortified. The administrative assistant for the math department laughed and said that this was just what this particular professor did.


This is one of those things that work on a micro scale but not a macro. Could you imagine if a large percentage of the student body did this? It would cause havoc in registering for classes.