The college academic year is divided into two semesters. Two fourteen week periods where students schedule their classes and choose which classes they actually attend or not. It’s a lot different from high school, which, for the most part, keep students in mostly the same classes throughout the year, save for a few interchangeable electives. I think the division of the year into semesters is one of the key things that differentiate high school and college. A semester can really fly by - after all, it is only 14 weeks.
At most schools once the semester starts, there is a popular phenomenon known as “syllabus week.” It refers to the first week of classes where professors usually hand out syllabi and keep class sessions shorter because it is common for students to drop and add classes in the first week. In order for professors to avoid redundancies in their lessons and allow students who come into the class late to still be caught up with their work, they make classes shorter than they usually would be and don’t assign lots of homework. Here at Lycoming, however, at least through my first three semesters, the professors do things differently. The first day of classes is usually all about the syllabus. Professors hand it out and go through it, things are slow paced, and it’s actually relaxing. Then, by the second day, classes are proceeding like normal. I guess they think a day is all we need to refocus after the break that preempts a semester.
The semester usually really picks up about 3-5 weeks in. You’ll notice because that is when a lot of stuff starts to happen. For example, Greek Life starts recruiting, classes start working towards either their first exams, papers, or projects (sometimes all three). There’s also an overwhelming commotion surrounding this part of the semester, which is then continued throughout weeks 8-10. This is the time where the major assignments in your courses start to mount up, so it would benefit you to stay on top of what assignments you have for which classes.
Also, around this time of the semester there’s a break- Thanksgiving Break in the Fall or Spring Break in the Spring. During break, I like to relax and spend a week not focusing on school or extracurricular activities. I also get to spend quality time with family and friends. Also during this time of the semester, people are planning out their course schedules for the upcoming semester and whether or not they will be studying abroad, etc. Needless to say, this time presents an interesting opportunity for students who want to take higher-level, more challenging courses because they can see how competitive it is to get into the courses they desire. In my experience at Lyco, I’ve never wanted to be in a class and been denied entry, but some of my friends have told me that it is really unnerving to have to go through the class registration period more than once, which is what you have to do if you don’t initially get into all of your desired courses. This part of the semester can be either stressful or relaxing, and it all depends on luck.
Now congratulations, celebrate! You’ve made it to the last couple of weeks of the semester, also known as the hardest part of the semester. Most of the sports teams have already or are about to conclude their seasons and clubs aren’t really having huge events on campus, so most people’s chief focus is their studies. The entire 14 weeks of your classes have been building up to this period: finals week. Say those two words around a college student and you can hear their sadness and despair. Finals Week is a time where I cut off my own family (which ironically is my biggest supporter) because I don’t want any distractions while I’m studying for the exams that can make or break my GPA. Finals Weekis so unnerving that I begin to question why I’m eating, talking with friends, or playing basketball (or anything else enjoyable) when in fact, I should be studying. To accommodate the fervor with which people study during Finals Week, our beloved Snowden Library is open for 24 hours, giving students a place to cram before exams, chat with professors, and catch up on sleep!
There isn’t a time like Finals Week in any other walk of life. Most people are hyper-focused and really tuned in to their academics like it’s a life-or-death situation. I absolutely loathe Finals until the second they are over.
You don’t really notice it while it is happening but a semester can really fly by. Although you don’t think of 14 weeks being a very long time, you feel really accomplished and relieved once it’s over. The bliss you feel when you have completed a semester is unmatched. Maybe that’s how people feel when they have their first child or on their wedding day, or perhaps I’m overstating it. But I do know this, the end of 14 weeks has never felt better
To find out more what life at Lycoming College is like during our academic semesters, schedule your visit today!