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The Length of A College Semester

written by: Jennifer Weller•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 8/19/2013

When enrolling in a college it is important to know how long a college semester is, especially at the college you will be attending. You will also need to become acquainted with how many semesters the college has in its academic calendar, so you can plan your schedule accordingly.

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    Planning Your Classes

    There are several different semester lengths that make up a year of college education. The length of your school's semester can computers determine how many classes you need to take per semester and how long it will take for you to complete your program. Not all schools offer each class every semester; keep this in mind when trying to plan your schedule. Usually schools will post in advance which classes they will provide, and in which semesters of the academic calendar, so you can plan accordingly. Try to plan in advance and stay on course.

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    Fall and Spring: The Typical Semesters

    A typical college semester can be defined as fifteen weeks long, depending on the school. With a typical fifteen-week-long semester, the academic calendar is divided into three semesters. The fall and spring semesters will both be fifteen weeks long and the third semester, summer, will usually be shorter. The summer semester is generally about twelve weeks long. You might find semester lengths vary from school to school, within a range of one to three weeks. Western Michigan University and Florida State University have academic calendars similar to this.

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    A Time to Advance or Catch Up: Summer Semester

    Summer semesters are generally an opportunity to supplement or accelerate your college program. Maybe you couldn't take as many classes as you needed to in the fall or spring semesters; you can use the summer semester to catch up and get back on track. Maybe you want to complete your program at a faster rate; taking classes during the summer semester will allow you to get ahead of the game.

    Generally, the summer semester is shorter. It gives you time for a much-needed break. Keep in mind that when you take classes in a shorter semester, the classes are usually longer in length or meet more times during the week. When classes meet more times per week students find it more difficult to take additional classes.

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    Shorter Semesters

    The length of a college semester is also determined by how many semesters the college has in its academic calendar. Some colleges might have two summer semesters that are very short in length, usually six weeks each. These are provided for the same reasons as the longer summer semester; they give the students more opportunities to get in the classes they need. Some schools might offer mid-semester courses. These courses will start at the same time but end halfway through the semester, or they might start halfway through the semester and end at the same time traditional courses end.

    Once you know how long the semesters are at your college of choice, you can plan your classes wisely. By knowing how long and how many semesters your school has in its academic year, you can make the most of your time.