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Carleton’s 10-week sprint (and tips to survive it academically)

Ryan gives some tips on managing Carleton's fast-paced 10-week term.

Ryan gives some tips on managing Carleton's fast-paced 10-week term.

Carleton runs on the trimester system, so rather than having two semesters throughout our school year, we have three 10-week trimesters. Though we take fewer classes per term (the norm is usually 3), they are very fast-paced. After being here for two terms, here is some guidance I have to help survive the sprint that is the trimester system! 

Not all weeks are the same!

The first thing to note is, yes, not all weeks are the same. Obviously, finals week isn’t going to feel the same as week 1. Though this is pretty clear, I definitely underestimated how difficult some weeks were compared to others.

In my experience (and many friends agree), weeks 1-5 are very straightforward. They aren’t any easier academically, but they feel like standard school. You go to class, you do your readings and other homework assignments, and talk to the professor if you have questions. Here and there, you study a topic that didn’t come easy to you, but otherwise, the class progresses very smoothly. Most classes have a midterm, and that first one is a major turning point in the term. For all of my classes that have had a midterm, once that was over, we hit the ground running.

It sometimes feels like I’m always studying for a new test having just taken one last week. You really need to be on your time management game in weeks 5 through 10 (in finals week as well!). These weeks emphasize tests, large projects, and essays. It may feel like a lot in the moment, but it’s so rewarding and you learn so much!

A student and Professor having a discussion in a history class

Time Management

For the students reading this, I’m sure you’ve heard others in your life stress the importance of time management skills. They’re not joking! Especially at a place like Carleton.

Some things that have helped me keep track of all my assignments and budget my time are keeping a physical schedule. I have a daily planner where I write down my larger commitments, like if I have a meeting or baseball practice, and a to-do list planner where I write down my class assignments and smaller things to do. 

studying at anderson
My study setup in Anderson Hall’s basement floor


Take Breaks

I know I just talked about managing your time well, and though it might sound counterintuitive, taking breaks is a very important part of successful time management. As much as it might seem like you need to study for 5 hours straight, that’s not plausible. In my experience, putting in a solid hour of studying, taking a 10-15 minute break, then studying for another good hour helps more than if I try to grind through hours of work at a time. I also don’t have a good attention span, so I would end up getting distracted anyway. If I instead study for an hour at a time, I’m able to stay focused and get more work done. 

Some students playing broomball in the snow as a break from the week 8 workload



Ryan (he/him) is a freshman from Alameda, CA. He is currently undecided on a major but enjoys stem classes. He plays on the varsity baseball team and is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ryan loves spending his free time playing video games, listening to music, or spending time with his friends in the dining halls.