Opinion

Gaffney: Why it’s time to retire the quarter system



The quarter system. Yes, the quarter system. Never before have three simple words polarized student bodies to such unfathomable degrees.

To be honest, when I initially committed to the University of Oregon, I didn’t even know that it was on the quarter system.

In fact, to make it more humilating, I didn’t even know what a quarter system was.

Like most high schoolers, all I had ever known was the monotonous grind of the semester system. It was only when I had anxiously compared my college breaks with high school friends that I realized something was a little different.

Now into my second year here at college, I have begrudingly become accustomed to the quarter system. Does that mean I like it? No. Definitely not. But, I have adjusted to a school system that moves as fast as my running for my life.

I decided it was only appropriate to analyze whether or not the quarter system was worth all the trials and tribulations.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Or is it time to rid ourselves of the quarter system once and for all?

Why the quarter system is wonderful

1) Course variety: With the quarter system – excluding the summer session – you get three different academic periods. This allows you to pursue many different classes of interest – shockingly, even ones that you are actually passionate about. The quarter system gives you the time and great resources to discover what you really like to do.

2) Getting awful classes over with quickly: Tragically, we all experience at least one class in college that we hate with a wrath unabashed in rage. Most likely, it’s not conducive to drop this class. That’s where the quarter system shines. You have the opportunity to get this class over and done within 10 short weeks versus the 14-20 weeks of the semester system.

3) Easier to double major/minor: The quarter system’s rapid schedule provides a lot of accommodation and leeway for students to minor, double minor or even double major while still graduating on time. Nearly every student I know at least minors in a subject on top of their major, which is more than can be said for students on the semester system.

4) You meet more people: With classes constantly rotating and changing, there’s always a plethora of new people to meet and befriend. Especially if you take classes of genuine interest, you have a greater chance of meeting people who share your passions.

Why the quarter system is terrible 

1) You are ALWAYS busy: The quarter system is not for the weak. With a schedule that is extremely fast and remorseless to those who fall behind, it can be a very difficult adjustment for students. With midterms spanning constantly from week three to week eight – and finals always looming – the stress is more than enough to skyrocket blood pressure.

2) Trouble getting internships: Most companies orient themselves around the semester system when hiring college students. Consequently, it can be quite difficult for quarter system students to get internships outside of Oregon that accommodate our summer (June to September) over that of the semester system (May to August). Work experience is important and the quarter system doesn’t help us students achieve it.

3) Atrocious breaks: There is no need for sugarcoating. Quarter system breaks are god-awful. With summers starting and ending far too late and Thanksgiving break occurirng only a week before the quarter ends, it’s a miracle we haven’t all combusted from frustration. But seriously, it’s sad. I may actually miss my brother’s high school graduation next year because I have finals at the time. And that’s just one of the many opportunities foiled by the quarter system.

4) Less time to bond: Sure, you get to meet more people but you don’t exactly get to retain them. I find that by week eight, I become particularly friendly with someone only for the quarter to end and all communication to cease.

In short, it’s difficult to determine whether the quarter system is right or wrong. Do you thrive in a fast paced environment with a strong emphasis on academics? The quarter system is right for you. Do you work better with a spaced out schedule with the ability to pursue more extracurriculars? Then the semester system is right for you.

However, the honest truth is that the quarter system is definitely more stressful. Maybe it’s good to be a little pushed and challenged, but I think it seems about time to retire the quarter system.

Follow Ciara Gaffney on Twitter @CiaraGaffs


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