Let’s take a few minutes to talk about trimesters.
Something that sets Union apart from most colleges and universities in America is its trimester system. Contrary to the norm, we have three terms instead of two and we take three classes for ten weeks each. This works out so we get a six-week winter break from Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s, and while we get out a little later in the summer, we don’t have to go back to school until early September. By the time we’re out of school for Thanksgiving break, we’ve completely finished with our finals for that trimester and we don’t have to worry about passing anything in or going back to take a test. While it’s nice to think about all the time we get to spend taking a break from school, which looks pretty good for summer and holiday help employers or allows us more time to travel, the trimester system really pays off when it comes to classes and time spent at college.
Trimesters give us more time to focus on each of our three classes individually rather than juggle four or five subjects at once, and we can spend more time absorbing material each trimester for each separate class. Even though we have three rounds of midterms and finals every year rather than two, we have more time during these weeks to put our effort into either studying or writing papers that we can be happy with rather than trying to finish one thing only to move on to the next.
By offering three rounds of classes a year, we have more opportunity to gauge what it is we want to study. We’re granted fresh starts at the beginning of each trimester to take new classes, and we’re given a wider variety of classes per year than other universities with semester systems. It’s not just the students who benefit from this, because professors are given opportunities to teach more subjects that they’re genuinely interested in and also have the chance to engage in research. Studying abroad is more accessible when you’ll only miss one third of the school year rather than one half, and the six week winter break is another chance to go on a “mini-term” abroad. This applies to students and professors, and really benefits the whole school.
Having been at Union going on four years, I’ve only ever experienced a trimester system. My girlfriend, however, has experienced the semester system during her undergraduate study in Chile, the trimester system at Union, and now again the semester system while earning her master’s degree at Penn State. She says she prefers Union’s trimesters because it gave her the opportunity to travel during breaks and focus more on her individual classes. She doesn’t think anyone is more productive for staying in classes for longer because a semester schedule. In fact, having less classes and more material in a shorter amount of time yields less stress than the alternative.
The trimester system has become second nature to me, and though my schedule is different from everyone else I know who is in college outside of Union, I often forget that school is conducted any other way. I can really only list positives when it comes to Union’s trimester system, and I’m glad this has been my experience studying at an undergraduate level.