Fast-Paced Quarter System Both Blessing, Curse For Students

Ketul Patel

By Ketul PatelThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern students often are greeted on the first day of classes with notices of impending papers or mid-terms approaching within three weeks. These are some of the hazards that come with the quarter system at NU.

Jamie Kwasnieski, a McCormick junior, said she likes the quarter system because she doesn’t have to remain in classes she dislikes.

“It’s in and out,” she said. “Once you get sick of your class, the quarter’s over.”

But Kwasnieski said the workload can get overwhelming at times. For one class, she currently has to finish a 900-page book and write a 10-page paper. That’s in addition to the weekly homework she has from various science courses.

She said she hasn’t suffered yet from this overwhelming workload but that “it’s getting there.”

Kwasnieski said students often feel the need to cut corners when they face a lot of work.

“Eventually, you get things accomplished or you make compromises,” she said. “If you have 10 books to read, you read them fast. Only at the end when things start to pile up does it get like that.”

Medill senior Farah Mohd Alkaf said the quarter system keeps her on her toes with class work.

“I feel like I constantly have to work,” she said. “It’s difficult to find time to relax. There’s always something – you get past one deadline and you have two deadlines coming up.”

But Alkaf said she likes the length of the quarter system.

“I feel like I have enough time to learn all the material,” she said. “It also doesn’t give me time to get bored with the subject.”

Weinberg sophomore Garrett Owens said he likes the fact that Winter Quarter finals take place right before Spring Break.

“It’s nice to go home and not have something hanging over your head,” he said.

Owens said he did not feel overwhelmed with the amount of information in courses because the courses are restructured by professors to fit into the quarter. He also said the quarter system was beneficial because it allowed him to take a greater variety of classes than students at other universities.

Other institutions, such as the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College, also operate on the quarter system.

At NU, the quarter system consists of three terms of about 10-weeks and an eight-week summer term. The quarter system allows students to take more classes than the semester system allows and to pursue internships off campus, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admission’s Web site.

But McCormick junior Ambrose Lin said the fast pace of the quarter system inhibits his opportunity to pursue learning experiences outside of class.

“I wanted to do some volunteering, but since I had a lot of school work, I wasn’t able to do it,” he said. “In general, too much stuff keeps on happening.”

Reach Ketul Patel at [email protected]