Creative Colleges: Schools on Trimester Calendars
Last week I introduced a new series about creative colleges. These are the schools that have the most original ideas to deliver a rewarding educational experience in the new reality of COVID-19. My good friend, Elizabeth LaScala, founder of Doing College-and Beyond in Northern California, offers several suggestions for juniors to prepare for these times, no matter where they want to go to college.
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, some colleges will be winners in this new reality. One set of winners will be the schools that prove to be inexpensive for a family, whether instruction is online or on-campus. The others will be the schools that can offer an educational experience where classes can easily transition from on-campus or field study to online, even be a blend of all three. That’s the challenge to colleges: charge less or prove that your school can teach your child better and justify charging more.
School choice is already familiar to families who have chosen between charter, magnet, public, private and parochial high schools. In this series I hope to help families consider college choices they have, schools that will be winners in this new reality. My last piece was about block plan colleges. This one is about colleges that operate on trimester calendars. It’s a little longer, because I’ll briefly cover five schools you should know.
What are trimester calendars?
Simply put, the college divides the academic year into three 10 or 11-week terms, which could include a break period. Students take three, sometimes four or five, classes each term. There is also a break between each term.
Trimester calendars work best at a liberal arts college. When students take three courses each term of over three terms they get to take nine classes over a year. They would take eight at a college that operates on a semester calendar. Students who attend a liberal arts college that operates on a semester calendar would take 32 courses over four years. They would take 36 at schools that run on trimester calendars.
What makes this an original solution in COVID-19 times?
Trimester calendars force students to learn more in less time. Like blocks, covered in my last Creative Colleges post, trimester calendars put more responsibility on teachers to design more interesting classes whether the course is online, on campus, off campus, or a mix of all three. It also places more responsibility on the teacher to help students who are falling behind in a class. As a result, trimesters work better at schools that have small classes.
Trimester calendars also allow a school to schedule a longer holiday break. The longer break lets students spend more time with family and friends at home, work, or continue on assignments from school. The downside: you have to go to school in May instead of going home. However, if you go to a college in a cold weather city, you do not go to school during the coldest months of the year! And because there are more terms to take classes, there are more opportunities for students to consider a major, carry a double major, study abroad or study away within the US.
Who uses trimester calendars?
Trimester calendars have been in place at liberal arts colleges such as Carleton College (MN) , Knox College (IL), Lawrence University (WI), and Union College (NY) (picture above). Another school, Bentley University just announced that it will switch to trimesters. I have visited Union (pictured above) before, and taken a virtual visit to Bentley. That might be the most interesting school to discuss first.
Bentley University recently announced that it will switch to a trimester calendar starting this fall. Each term will be 14 weeks for the fall, spring and summer, with short breaks in between. The summer term will be optional and tuition free.
Unlike the other four schools you will read about, Bentley is all business. Even if you opt for a liberal arts major, you must take a business minor or a second major in Business Studies. Also unlike the other schools, Bentley is quite close to an urban business community.
As students advance through their curriculum, they can opt for reduced course loads trimester in order to work at an internship. Depending on social distancing policies students might be able to juggle work and classes online or on campus. Bentley students can also take all of their courses during the Fall and Spring and work full time during the summer. Enter with enough AP credits, and they can earn a Masters degree in four years.
Bentley is cross-shopped against the business schools at Boston University (BU) and Northeastern, among colleges. It’s become a more selective school (43% acceptance rate), unless you apply Early Decision (69% acceptance rate) with an average SAT of 1320. But students who chose this school owed, on average, less than their peers at many state schools, as well as NU and Northeastern. The trimester calendar may help Bentley become a more competitive player in a very competitive market.
Carleton College is one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country. With 2,100 undergrads and no graduate students, Carleton is all about teaching. Students gave their faculty a very high rating (4.12 our of a possible 5) on RateMyProfessors.com. They take three courses each trimester. Carleton graduates nearly 90 percent of its freshmen on time, better than some East and West Coast schools with more famous names.
Carleton is test mandatory. The middle 50 percent of the current freshman class scored between 1380 and 1520 on the SAT and between 31 and 34 on the ACT. If you have a strong transcript and want a liberal arts education, Carleton might be a good Early Decision (ED) school. Last year the college accepted 26 percent of the students who applied ED, and they were nearly half of the freshman class.
Concerned about cost? Less than 40 percent of Carleton students who graduated last spring had student loan debt. Those who borrowed owed less than $20,000. That’s less than most state university grads owed their alma mater.
Knox College has a small student body with less than 1,300 undergrads and no grad students. Its test optional, not exceptionally selective, but all about teaching. Their students gave their faculty a rating of 4.0 out of 5 on RateMyProfessors.com Knox accepted just over two-thirds of the students who applied to join the current freshman class. This college has a higher four-year graduation rate than most public colleges. Over two-thirds of every class finishes on time.
Knox is a great option for someone who wants a liberal arts education, has very good to excellent grades, but does not have the test scores to get into the most selective schools. The middle 50 percent of the current freshman class scores between 1150 and 1350 on the SAT, and between 24 and 31 on the ACT. There’s no need to apply Early Decision; the college offers Early Action to give you time to revisit the school.
Concerned about costs? Knox graduates who borrowed and finished their degrees last spring owed, on average, $27,000. That’s the maximum that they could have borrowed under the Federal Student Loan Program. It’s also about the same as their would have borrowed had they attended their home state university.
Lawrence University is another small liberal arts college, and it too, is test optional. Like Carleton and Knox, this 1,400 student school has no graduate students, and is all about teaching. Their students gave their faculty a rating of 3.95 out of five on RateMyProfessors.com. But unlike the previously mentioned liberal arts schools, Lawrence also has its own music conservatory, one of the best in the country. Lawrence is more selective than Knox, probably because of admissions to the music programs. Sixty-two percent of the students who wanted to join the current freshman class got in. The four-year grad rate is not as high as Knox’s, but still good: 62 percent.
Lawrence is in a well-to-do community with a very nice downtown. The campus and community attract people from all over, even though it can get quite cold for much of the year in Appleton, Wisconsin. Lawrence, like Knox, is also a great option for a very good student who wants a liberal arts education, but cannot get into the most selective schools. The middle 50 percent of the freshman class scored between 1230 and 1400 on the SAT, and between 25 and 32 on the ACT. Apply Early Action to give yourself time to revisit this school. ED is available, but less than 10 percent of the current class was admitted that way.
Concerned about costs? Spring 2019 graduates who took out federal loans owed less than $25,000. That’s $2,000 less than the maximum permitted under the Federal Student Loan Program, and less than many students owed to the state university in their home state.
Union College is located in Schenectady, New York, the original home of General Electric. Like the other liberal arts schools discussed, it is test optional. But unlike those schools Union grants degrees in engineering.
The trimester system works well for engineering at Union. With a smaller course load and smaller classes, their students have a better opportunity to master the difficult core courses. They can also double major, tackle minors or study abroad, opportunities that are not available at a larger engineering school. This school also has one of the best career development centers that I have ever seen at a small college. It also has one of the largest Greek systems that I have ever seen at a school of this size. However, their students do not rate the faculty has highly as their peers at the other schools discussed here. They gave them a rating of 3.82 our of 5 on RateMyProfessors.com
Union has about 2,200 undergraduates. It’s relatively selective, but admissions are more achievable than they are at Lafayette, probably the most similar school. Forty-three percent of the students who applied to join the current freshman class were accepted. The middle 50 percent of the freshman class scored between 1220 and 1420 on the SAT, and between 27 and 32 on the ACT. If you like what you learn about Union, you might want to consider applying ED. Sixty percent of those applicants got in. The students accepted ED made up 40 percent of the freshman class.
Concerned about costs? Union offered merit scholarships to more than a quarter of the current freshman class, and meets full need. Half of the class of 2019 graduated with student loan debt. On average, those borrowed owed $22,500 to the Federal Student Loan Program.
There are other schools that work on trimester calendars. These are five of the best, and may also be good values for your money. If these schools can come to the aid of their students, as they have before, they will be winners in our new reality.
It’s my job to find the best fit, including creative colleges, to take you on the journey to the education and career you want. Want to know more? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.