The typical college, academic calendar consists of two semesters–18 weeks each for both fall and spring.
During these two semesters students usually take somewhere around 4 courses with each class lasting the full 18 weeks (not counting PE electives).
Eventually, someone out there realized that not all students like this particular schedule. Some learn better taking one class at a time, and others prefer taking classes over summer or winter breaks.
If you happen to be one of those students who isn’t sold on the idea of attending the same classes for 18 weeks straight, here are a few schools you should check out.
1. Cornell College
Cornell College is located in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Students take one class at a time for 18 days. Instead of using a semester system, they have 8 blocks each school year. Or, as their website says, 1 Course x 18 Days x 8 Blocks.
One of the cool things about this setup is that some of these blocks are spent abroad or on location. If you sign up for a marine biology class, you just might end up in the Caribbean for a block!
2. Colorado College
Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, runs a similar schedule. Students take 4 blocks each semester, or 8 blocks per year. A half block is offered during the winter and you can also elect to enroll in summer session.
As a student, your time will usually be spent in a classroom during the morning hours, and participating in some kind of hands-on work during the afternoon. Then, after your 3.5 weeks are up, you get a block break (i.e., 4 day weekend).
3. Knox College
Galesburg, Illinois is home to Knox College, which runs on a 3 by 3 schedule. Students take 3 classes per 10-week trimester. Knox is considered a highly-selective school. As such, a great emphasis is placed on research or having some kind of product to show at the end of your four years.
And, because I attended the only other institution in the country that has this great event, I must also mention that Knox has Flunk Day.
4. Tusculum College
Tusculum College, in Greenville, Tennessee, runs two 8-week blocks per semester. Tusculum prides itself on not only being a great place to study your chosen major, but also as a Civic Arts college. Students become involved in their classroom and community via the Commons Curriculum.
5. Spalding University
Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Spalding University offers students another form of non-traditional scheduling which allows for in-depth study and flexibility. The academic schedule for undergraduate students consists of 7, 6-week sessions. After each session there is a one-week break.
According to their website, students usually take one or two classes each session. These classes meet for about 100 minutes each day. That’s less than 2 hours per class which leaves plenty of time for studying, working, and extracurricular activities.
Do your research
While some of these schedules might seem appealing, be sure to do your research and visit the school. Keep in mind that you might only be taking one class for 3.5 weeks, but that could mean spending 5 or 6 hours EVERY DAY in a classroom or lab for that one class.
If you loathe math, taking your required math class in a non-traditional schedule might sound great. Instead of taking an 18 week statistics class you could knock it out in 3.5 weeks instead. But, this means that you won’t be spending 3 hours a week in a statistics class, it would probably be more like 20 hours each week instead. Remember, that isn’t counting homework time either.
On the other hand, if you love all things academia, a non-traditional schedule might be perfect for you. These allow for an intense immersion in the material. Some classes might be spent doing research, others might be hands-on experiences in a cool location.
Non-traditional schedules can work really well for internship experiences as well.
Make sure you talk to students and see what they think of their schedules–they can usually provide a pretty solid list of pros and cons.
Know another college or university that runs on a non-traditional schedule? Comment below and let us know!