The time has come: You have just graduated from high school and are ready to start college. You are full of excitement as you start a new chapter in your life, whether it be away from home or going to a college nearby. But you are probably wondering: How long is a college semester?
In this article, we explain how long a college semester is. We’ll also discuss what breaks you have throughout the school year and how many credit hours you need to take per semester, among other topics. So read on to learn what you can expect.
What Are College Semesters and How Long Do They Last?
A college semester is usually between 12 to 16 weeks long depending on how the college plans its academic year. A full school year consists of two semesters, fall and spring.
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Get exclusive scholarships and prep courses
Do you want to learn more about how a coding bootcamp can help you learn to code? Get started by finding the right bootcamp for you along with unlocking additional information about bootcamp cost and reviews.
The fall semester usually starts at the end of August or early September and runs for about 12 to 16 weeks, depending on the school. During this time, you will start by taking 15 credit hours, which is five classes.
If it is your first year at college as an incoming freshman or a transfer student, you can expect quite a few things to get you acclimated to a new campus. Many colleges offer social activities during the first week for students to get to know each other and start making friends, get a better feel of the campus, and learn what clubs are offered.
Starting college can be nerve-wracking for some people, especially if they cross state lines and don’t know anybody. But, do not worry as you will find a great group of friends within your first week of classes. Remember, most people feel the same way you do.
In college, the fall semester is when you can plan your year—set goals for yourself, find what classes you need to take for the following semester, learn how to manage your time, and so on. This gives you a great advantage.
The spring semester is the second semester of the year. This semester usually starts around mid-January and also lasts between 12 to 16 weeks. During this time, you will also be taking 15 credit hours. You could take more than five classes, but you will need permission from your school to make sure that you can handle the extra workload.
81% of participants stated they felt more confident about their tech job prospects after attending a bootcamp. Get matched to a bootcamp today.
The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
The spring semester is great because you can check back with what you did in the fall and see if you are still on track with your yearly goals and continue to achieve them or adjust them. If your academics have slipped, there are multiple resources on campus for you to improve your GPA. Go to study groups at the library, meet your professor during office hours, and put in extra study time to make sure your GPA doesn’t fall behind.
As the winter months come to an end and the weather is getting better, your college will start to have great social activities outside. This is a great way to socialize and meet new people outside your friend group. It also gives you a chance to relax after a long day of classes and meetings.
If you decide to take summer classes, a summer semester is applied. Summer semesters are for students who may need an extra class that they weren’t able to take during the regular academic year, or for those who want to get ahead and graduate early.
This semester is around 12 weeks long if the class requires it to be. Since summer semesters are shorter, some colleges split their summer semesters up into terms, which can be six to eight weeks long.
Because these classes are usually shorter, it gives students the chance to complete their classes quickly. Either way, taking a summer class will get you back on track or ahead of your four-year college plan.
Difference Between Semester System and Quarter System
You might be wondering what the difference between a semester system and a quarter system is. This is fairly simple. A semester system divides the academic year by fall and spring semesters, while a quarter system divides the year by fall, winter, and spring quarters. A quarter is 10 weeks long.
In the semester system, students take on average five classes, which is 15 credit hours. The quarter system has students take around three to four classes. The quarter system is very common in middle and high schools. While it is not common in colleges and universities, some schools have adopted the quarter system.
There is also a third system called the trimester system. While it is commonly used in high schools, some colleges have adopted a trimester system as well. A trimester splits the academic year into three parts, each three months long. Each trimester lasts about 10 to 12 weeks.
Breaks in College Semesters
Each college and university plans its academic calendar differently. Not every school will have the same academic year, so not only will the length of semesters differ, but breaks will as well. So, if you are hoping to go on a break with your friend from a different school, you should check to see if your breaks line up.
During the fall semester, you will have a few breaks you can look forward to. The first break is a midterm break, also known as fall break. This is usually a four- to five-day break in early October that gives students a chance to relax after studying hard for their midterm exams. However, check with your school if a midterm break is offered because not every school will have one.
After you return from your fall break, you will probably be looking forward to Thanksgiving. Every school offers a Thanksgiving break, allowing students to return home to their families and enjoy a great meal surrounded by family and friends.
Unfortunately, not every student has the opportunity to return home for Thanksgiving. Some domestic students may not have a place to go home to and some international students may not be able to go home due to an increase in flight prices. Fortunately for them, colleges usually offer a Thanksgiving meal on campus for students who are unable to go home.
After having a five- to six-day Thanksgiving break, you’ll return to campus with a full stomach and possibly some new gear from Black Friday shopping. You then have a few weeks left for your fall semester as you start preparing for your final exams.
Following the end of your final exams, you will then have your winter break, which splits the two semesters. Winter break is usually around three to four weeks long depending on the college. It usually starts a week before Christmas and ends a week or two after the new year.
Upon returning from winter break, the second semester, also known as the spring semester, starts. During your spring semester, you are probably looking forward to your spring break. Spring break usually occurs after your midterm exams as well. Spring break usually takes place at the beginning or middle of March and lasts one week.
After spring break, you will come back to school for another month and a half and then enjoy the summer break. Summer break starts in the first or second week of May and runs until the fall semester starts.
Preparing for Your College Semester
As you prepare for your college semester, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Make sure that you are managing your time properly. As you get more involved on campus and life, such as working a job, participating in sports or clubs, social life, and so on, it can be easy to get distracted from classes, work, and other obligations.
"Career Karma entered my life when I needed it most and quickly helped me match with a bootcamp. Two months after graduating, I found my dream job that aligned with my values and goals in life!"
Venus, Software Engineer at Rockbot
Time management is very important because you need to focus on your obligations without falling behind or missing anything that you have committed to. Enjoy your time in college and plan each semester, go to classes, and have fun.
College Semester FAQ
How long is a college semester?
Depending on the school’s academic year, it can range from 12-16 weeks.
Are there a lot of breaks during the year?
Yes. There is a Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and summer break.
What makes up a full school year?
Two semesters. Fall and Spring
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.