What is the Difference Between Fall and Spring Semester?

When looking at a college calendar, you likely will notice that they have Fall Semester and Spring Semester start and end dates. But what are the differences between these two periods of time, and how does it affect your college education? We’ll run through the differences between the fall and spring semesters so you can make the best decision for your class schedules.

1: Different Start Dates

The most glaring differences between spring and fall semesters are the start and end dates! 

Fall semesters tend to start in mid to late August or early September and end just before the winter break over the holidays.

Spring semesters start mid to late January or early February – it all depends on how long your winter break is. Some may even begin in early January though that is rarer. The semester tends to end in late May.

Always be sure to check your school’s calendar as they will have different move-in, class start, and class selection dates.

Colleges and universities that offer quarters rather than semesters will have very different start and end dates for their terms.

2: Different Classes Offerings

The most important difference between spring and fall semesters is the fact that different classes can be offered during these periods! While there are exceptions to the rule – there will be plenty of classes that are offered during both semesters – many courses will only be offered during one or the other.

An excellent example of this would be 101 and 102 classes (or 201 vs 202 or 301 vs 302). A 101 course usually is offered in the fall semester, while a 102 course is available during the spring. So how does this affect you?

Well, a majority of these types of classes are required to complete your general education requirements or major requirements. If you’re studying Biology and need Chemistry 101 and 102 to advance to the next level (usually Organic Chemistry), you have to plan ahead if you want to graduate in four years. You can’t delay the 101 courses because you can’t take it in the spring. For example, If you do delay it, you could push Organic Chemistry back a year. And that could very well push back your graduation date!

If you have any questions about when certain courses are offered that pertain to your graduation requirements, be sure to check out your school’s website as many plainly state what classes are offered and when. You can also reach out to your academic advisor for additional assistance and information.

3: Colleges May or May Not Require You to Start in the Fall

Most incoming college first years tend to start during the fall semester. And some schools require these students to start then rather than in spring. There are exceptions to this rule as colleges are different after all, but this tends to be the rule of thumb.

One exception to this would be community colleges. They generally allow students to start during any semester, whether it’s fall, winter, spring, and summer. 

If you have any questions about when you can start your college education, be sure to reach out to the school’s admissions department beforehand!

How Do Spring and Fall Semesters Differ From Winter and Summer Semesters?

Taking winter and summer classes could help you graduate college a bit faster. But, how exactly do they differ from the spring and fall semesters? Well, they:

  • Offer shorter programs. Spring and fall semesters are usually around 15 weeks, while winter and summer classes can be between 3 to 4 weeks and 12 weeks respectively.
  • Only specific classes are available. Winter and summer semesters only offer so many classes to students, and you may not be able to find one that helps you graduate faster
  • Some are more rigorous. Since the courses are in shorter time frames, you may be attending more classes throughout the week or have to complete a lot of work in less time

It’s important to understand how your college handles spring and fall semesters. And when and how classes are offered during these terms is essential for planning your education and graduation. Making a mistake and skipping a class you need for your major in the fall could set you back an entire year! Especially if the class isn’t offered during the winter or summer semesters. Have any concerns or questions about your track for graduation? Make sure you talk to your academic advisor as soon as possible.

Want to learn more about majors and their expected of you in these classes? College Raptor’s College Major search tool offers information on what classes will cover, common careers after graduation, and the top schools for these types of studies.