Winter break hasn’t been this short in 10 years. Summer vacation is getting longer, and there was that weird fall break thing. While winter break was between 33 and 27 days between 2002 and 2010, students will only have 19 days to rest up this winter. The culprit, according to University Registrar Lou Ann Denny, was the seven-and-a-half A and B sessions. Fall semester is nearing completion, so it’s time to ask if the two additional seven-week sessions are worth the eight- to 14-day vacation sacrifice, and if they are a better alternative to the winter courses traditionally offered within the December-January timeframe.
The seven-week sessions have allowed students to rip off the academic bandage when it comes to general education courses and spend more quality time focused on major-specific courses. Instead of indulging an ENG 102 or MAT 142 course with a full 17-week semester, students can re-invest energies into the texts and assignments of the classes they’re most interested in — not to mention the ones most pertinent to their future careers. The seven-week sessions don’t fully address the higher tuition bill that comes with superfluous, general education courses, but they do allow students to get them out of the way more quickly.
ASU has a healthy selection of online courses, providing more and more options so students can readily take advantage of the course catalogue and earn the credit hours to graduate early. The seven-week sessions offer a more cost-effective option for students who use financial aid funds to foot the tuition bill. Summer and winter credits are generally too expensive and don’t fall under the umbrella of covered costs.
But it comes at a cost not fully realized until winter or fall rolls around. The hyper-condensed courses do provide students with the avenues to stay flexible. Those who unfortunately fail a gen-ed course in Session A can re-take the same course in Session B, hopefully using the experience and freshly-acquired know-how for a more fruitful outcome. But at the end of a semester filled with academic lows and highs, it seems as if students aren’t given enough time recover before they resume the intellectual grind that will be Spring 2013. In order for students to be successful in shorter-term courses, professors must also be willing to adapt to the sessions’ shorter instruction period — re-structuring their syllabi and re-formatting their ambitions for the term.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, if students don’t feel a 19-day winter break warrants the semester-long toil. Next year, the University’s winter break will last 28 days. The best thing students can do during a transition period is to make the most of their time — by spending time with friends and family but also making sure to have more quality alone time, too.