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Oakes's Corner

Considering Academic Calendars

By Oakes Hunnewell, Ed.M., CEP

Prospective families, beginning the college application process, have preferences and are looking to satisfy as many of them as possible. Attention is paid to selectivity, course and major offerings, size, location, athletics, extra-curriculars and culture. Another factor that may be helpful in the selection and filtering process is the academic calendar. Consider what is out there.

  1. Some colleges and universities run on a semester calendar. Students at these institutions typically take five courses twice a year.
  2. Trimester colleges are usually smaller, liberal arts institutions. Students enrolled usually take four and sometimes, even three classes at a time.
  3. The three semester universities have a summer semester that allows students to either move up their graduation dates or take a semester or two to travel, do internships or co-ops off campus without delaying their graduation date.

Then there are the colleges and universities who offer more progressive academic calendars.

  1. Some liberal arts colleges offer a mini semester, sometimes referred to as the January Term. During that month, students are encouraged to explore their interests whether they be academic, hobbies or career related. They may choose to travel abroad, intern, research with a professor or remain on campus and take a course generally not offered in the fall or spring.
  2. Some colleges employ the block plan. Essentially, students take one course at a time for a short and very intense period of time lasting a few weeks. The purpose of the block plan is for students to concentrate on one subject without any distractions or schedule conflicts. As a result, professors have their undivided attention and time. They may take their students on adventures such field studies and study abroad without interfering with any other courses.
  3. Some colleges employ a combination of calendars such as a semester block plan. At these institutions, students spend three quarters of a semester taking three courses and one quarter taking just one course. Again, because there are no scheduling conflicts in the last quarter of each semester, professors are free to do field work and other off campus excursions with their students.

Paying attention to academic calendars should play a role when deciding where to apply. Depending on the student’s interests, whether it be in the sciences, language and culture or even in literature, some of these plans may be more advantageous than others. A career minded student may consider option three or four, an institution that sets time aside for gaining experience. A science student may favor option six which would allow for classroom and field study time. Also, in considering the transition to college, one plan may be a closer version of a student’s high school experience which would make the adjustment less disruptive. Some high schools favor the block plan, others run on semesters or trimesters schedules.

LIU Global -


“LIU Global will put you on four continents in the course of four years”

LIU Global is a program accredited through Long Island University. It is formally known as Friends World and was founded 50 years ago by Quakers. Students enrolled in the program earn a BA in some concentration of Global Studies. Concentrations would include subjects involving religion, culture, education, politics, economics and the environment. This is truly an experiential program. Not until the spring of their senior year are student required to return to New York to complete their thesis. Starting in their freshman year, students complete a year in Costa Rica. Their sophomore and junior years take them to countries such as Peru, India, Turkey, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia or South Africa. The destinations they choose are related to the course work they wish to complete. In their senior year, students are encouraged to return to New York to work on their senior thesis and to complete a Capstone Semester. Students who inquire about LIU Global are generally independent, adventurous and hands on learners.

For more information, please contact LIU Global, Office of Admissions at 718-488-1011 or at You may also contact me at 508-650-4600 or