How Long Is a College Semester?

How long is a college semester? When does the semester start? How many hours do students work per semester? Are online semesters shorter?

To answer your question right away: a college semester is typically 15 weeks or 75 days long.

Now, please take note that we are talking about the spring and fall semesters in the U.S.

Yes, our answer is not universal!

There are a lot of factors that can make your semester longer or shorter. Moreover, depending on your school and program, they may require you to take summer classes.

So let’s take a closer look.

How long is the fall semester?

The first semester, commonly known as the ‘fall semester,’ begins around the middle of August or in the first week of September. 

Usually, August is all about registrations and getting familiar with your schedule. 

Regardless of when your classes start, you have a two-week grace period from the start of the term where you can opt-out. Its purpose is to avoid getting an “F” if you’re not interested in what you’ve taken. 

After that, it’s like typical college days. 

The first semester ends in the middle of December, in which the final examination also takes place. However, for the faculty, that’s usually around the third week of the month (submission of grades). 

In a nutshell, the fall semester is 15 weeks long (it starts in August and ends in December)

What about the spring semester?

The second semester (spring semester) typically starts within the first or second week of January and ends around the first week of May.

During this semester, around 85% of universities still admit new students. So if you plan on shifting your major, you’re not going to have a problem starting again at the start of the second semester.

How long is a summer college semester?

Now, as we’ve mentioned earlier, not every school or program will require you to take the summer semester. 

However, you can take classes in advance if they are available during the summer semester to speed up your studies.

Summer semesters take place right after the end of the second semester, and they’re pretty short — eight weeks long.

Some schools have a fixed schedule for their summer semester, which is around the first week of June and ends in the second week of August. 

The end of the summer semester marks the end of an academic year. 

How many hours do students work per semester?

Before answering that question, you have to understand credits; some institutions call them units. 

In college, credit hours mean the hours you spend in a classroom, field, or laboratory each week.

Each subject that you take will require a certain amount of credit hours per week. 

So when your program states that you have a three-credit-hour class, that means you need to attend that class for three hours a week. It could be an hour a day, three times a week, or three hours in a single sitting.

Since a semester is around 15 weeks, that translates to 45-48 hours of accredited studying.

What do we mean by ‘accredited?’

Well, credits are only accepted within your institution or an approved field. 

Institutions define full-time college students as those who take 12 or more credits per semester. The typical high load is 18.

So, how many hours do students work per semester? 

If you’re studying full-time, having 12 credits, the entire semester equates to 180 hours of accredited classes. 

You only need to work 12 hours per week to finish your semester, but we don’t recommend doing that. 

If possible, make sure that you also study no shorter than three hours per week so that you won’t fall behind. 

Are online semesters shorter?

When it comes to required credits, online classes are the same as traditional classes

The only difference is that you’re taking your classes remotely. 

Well, there are colleges out there that offer accelerated programs. 

Accelerated degree programs are shorter courses but with more pressure. They still require you to complete the required credits to earn your degree, but you have to study with an overload. 

It means you have to get more than 18 credits per semester, which translates to more studying hours. 

Most of these programs guarantee that you will have your degree after three years. Some of them promise less if you can crunch in more credits.

Final words

College education takes time, and it should take time as it’s all about becoming a professional in a field you love. If you’re here because you want to speed up your career, we advise you not to. 

You become proficient by pouring hours of hard work into something.

Always remember: quality over quantity.