What is the Difference Between Quarters, Semesters, and Trimesters?

The Difference Between Quarters, Semesters And Trimesters: America is one of the best countries for education, as they provide plentiful options and diverse courses. In terms of academic calendars, they have many formations too; this has an impact on how many courses you’ll have to take per session. This article is aiming to help international students looking to further understand the American system of education.

The academic calendars are labeled as quarter, trimester and semester systems. To make you understand better, I’ll explain to you their concepts, sessions and what they entail. Keep on reading!

What Is A Quarter?

It’s pretty much what it sounds like; a quarter system is where your academic year will be divided into four segments: Fall, Winter, Spring and lastly Summer. For most cases, USA colleges don’t mandatorily require the summer session, however you can use this time to make up for extra classes, or the classes you previously didn’t take. You can also use this opportunity to expedite your graduation by increasing your credits.

In the quarter session, each lesson’s duration is about ten weeks; for every quarter, you’d be able to take three to four classes, depending on the credits offered by each class.

Usually, American school year lasts from late September to June. Quarter systems are very commonly used in community colleges, as opposed to universities.

One issue you may face with this system is the pressure of too many courses in a short while, given that a quarter only lasts for ten weeks. You could potentially find it difficult to fit in 15 weeks worth of studies in a calendar of 10 weeks, as trimester and semester last for 15 weeks, so it’d be easier.

But the bright side is you can learn time management better, and even graduate earlier.

What Is a Semester?

Unlike the quarter system, a semester is actually split into two separate sessions, which are Fall and Spring. Each of these sessions may stretch to approximately 15 weeks. However, you’ll have a winter and summer break between the semesters, making it more relaxing.

Each semester consists of four to six classes, depending on the number of credits. The semester system is actually the most common type of school schedule in the USA, as 90% Universities follow it.

This system is best for students who are laid back and want to enjoy studying at a steady pace, without the added pressure. Hey, we still have our lives left; let’s live slowly.

As for the courses, it’ll cover the same grounds like the quarter system, only spread slower. Often times, classes can be divided into alternate schedules, for example some days you can take three classes, while other days you can take two; it’s very flexible.

So, because of the flexibility, you’ll have to retain more self control when preparing the schedule.

Also Read: Bachelor of Arts Vs Bachelor of Science: What’s the Difference?

What is a Trimester?

A trimester comprises of three academic sessions: Fall, Winter and Spring. Every trimester will last for 12-13 weeks, and you can take three or four classes for each trimester.

It’s important to note that the trimester system in USA is more prevalent in high school and middle school level education, although some colleges do offer this program as well.

The trimester system is the middle ground between quarter and semester; you can attend classes on a regular basis, switch classes, and have more instructions coming from instructors, compared to quarter system.

How To Utilize Each USA Academic System; Make The Most Of Every System?

  • Quarter system: This system can very easily get overwhelming, so to minimize it, it’s recommended that you take easier electives with more difficult classes. In that way, you learn from your difficult classes about the main course and have fun with the electives, which can be art, sports, music, etc. The quarter system also allows for a broader network of acquaintances.  Unlike the other systems, this system lets you meet new people every ten weeks as one session ends; it’s perfect to cultivate some social skills.

Colleges in the USA have a very commendable attribute, which is the flexibility they give you when it comes to choosing additional subjects, especially for the quarter system, you can pursue any elective under the sun. The choice is yours; this is very helpful to add a much deserved break to your study process, lessening the stress of the harder subjects.

  • Semester system: You may find the semester system to be easily distracting, as it offers too much flexibility; exams seem to be weeks apart, assignments aren’t due till much later.

It’s advised that you build a manageable schedule if you opt for this system; buy a notebook, organize your routine and don’t get sidetracked. The good thing about this though, you can get more involved in extracurricular activities. In your spare time, you can participate in various clubs or help the local community.

University clubs provide a great deal of activities to choose from. And you can work while you study abroad as well, given that you have a lot of free time, utilize it and get that money.

  • Trimester System: As this is mainly for high school or middle school students, you may want to work on your University application during this time; join clubs, volunteer and basically learn about life of an adult. Take advantage of your free time by putting yourself out there.

Also Read: Understanding The American Education System (Explained) 2023

Cheapest USA Universities For International Students

This segment is made for you to find good affordable options, so I’ve listed a few:

  • Eastern New Mexico University: It’s a public university in Louisiana and has a range of courses starting from nursing to culinary arts. The tuition fees are pretty attainable; $4,440.36 per semester of 15 hours for Master’s and $4,482.90 for undergrads.
  • Mississippi University For Women: This is the first public women’s University in America and is located in Columbus, Mississippi. Cost per semester is around $3,883.
  • Southwest Minnesota State University: They have tons of fun clubs and organizations, with diverse degrees. The location is in Marshall, Minnesota. Tuition fees are about $10,116 per year.

All in all, think about all of these sessions, systems and options to figure out which one you need; there’s no rush and I hope I helped.

Also Read: USA Scholarships for International Students 2024


How many quarters are there in college?

You’d be taking three quarter for each academic year.

How many months is each semester in USA?

It’s about 4 months, or 15 to 17 weeks.

How many semesters in a year in USA?

Typically there will be two semesters per year.

How many credits per semester in USA?

Around 15 credit hours.

What months are the trimester system?

February to June, June to October, October to February. Usually, that’s the pattern.

How long does each quarter last?

10 weeks typically.

Also Read: 10 Best AI Voice Generators in 2023 

Abeda UK

Abeda Jannat Scholarship Analyst from United Kingdom. Her main focus is to share how you can crack IELTS Exam, How you will get a Scholarship from Best University in the world, also she will share all her experiences about IELTS, University Admission or Application process, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button