Pros and Cons of the Trimester System

Intensity of Trimester System

Plot of intensity during each week of the trimester.

Union College is fairly unique in that it has an academic trimester system. Instead of two long semesters, there are three, ten week, trimesters.

The short term allows you to:

  • Focus intensely on only a few subjects at a time.
  • Quickly move on to new topics throughout the year.
  • Experiment with short-term research and class projects.

The trimesters are certainly intense: there is very little down-time and courses pick up speed quite quickly. The first day may remind you an episode of Sesame Street but by the end the week, the Cookie Monster will have long since returned to his trash can. There is also no room to fall behind. There are only a few weeks between each exam/paper, so you really have to prepare for them throughout the term.

Overall, this approach is excellent if you have an active learning approach and want to be rapidly presented with interesting material. You will rarely be bored by your classes. In fact, your greatest challenge will be to balance the coursework with your other activities.

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Xavier '16

Xavier Capaldi comes from a homestead in Northern Vermont where his family raises sheep, chickens, and rabbits. Xavier was homeschooled his entire life before college. He is majoring in physics and minoring in nanotechnology and math. At Union, Xavier is the social host of the Beuth Council. He is also the captain and president of the rugby team and is a tutor in the Physics Help Center. Xavier has participated in a variety of research projects including: the study of embryonic heart development, analysis of gas released during coffee bean roasting, the development of a vanadium catalyst to neutralize chemical warfare agents on fabric, and study of the crystallization of polyethylene oxide.

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