Skip to main content

Fun Facts about the Trimester System

Ren gives some quick facts about the trimester system.

Ren gives some quick facts about the trimester system.

Carleton’s trimester system can seem pretty confusing at first. I remember a few people explaining it to me, but I didn’t fully understand how it worked until I started school at Carleton. To try and assuage confusion and worry about the system, here are some trimester fun facts!


  • The trimester system means three terms made up of 10 weeks each, one in the Fall (September-November), Winter (January-March), and Spring (March-June). We spend the same amount of time in school as people who are on the regular semester system and have long breaks in between each term.


  • One of my favorite things about the trimester system is that when we get out of school in November, we don’t have to come back until the beginning of Winter Term in January (whereas people on the semester system have to go back to school after Thanksgiving). This is great in many ways. It also means only needing to buy one plane ticket to get home for break instead of two! You can see our Academic Calendar in full here.
I had my first chocolate peppermint mocha of the year and am now ready for break!


  • The trimesters are fast-paced! But, they’re manageable. Carleton is known for its excellent professors—they’re all challenging yet very kind and make this system doable. I never thought I would be able to learn so much in 10 weeks, but they make it possible!


  • In my opinion, 10 weeks is the perfect amount of time to take a class. It’s just enough time to go really in-depth with a subject, but not enough time to get tired of the class.


  • I also love that I only have 3 classes every term because I get to really focus on the courses I’m taking, and never feel like my attention is too divided.


  • The trimester system means that we only take 3 courses that are each worth 6 credits each term. While you can petition to take up to 24 credits a term (it’s a petition because it’s not recommended—this would be a lot of work!), most students complete 18 credits every term. This puts you right on track to graduate with the required 210 credits.


  • At Carleton, saying, “it’s Week 8” is considered an acceptable response to the question, “how are you doing?” This is a good strategy starting in Week 5.
Hard at work…


  • Week 10 is half classes, half “Reading Days.” Readings Days offer us a few days off to finish assignments and prepare for the exams that will happen during our “Finals Period.” The Finals Period is the last few days of the term that separate us from going home!
An excerpt from our Academic Calendar


If you want to read more about the trimester system, you can find other students’ opinions here, here, or here!

While we love it, we also know the system may not work for everyone, and that’s okay! In the college search, the most important thing is to find the right match for you! Hopefully, this article among others is helpful in determining whether Carleton is your match.



Ren (they/them) grew up catching salamanders, recklessly climbing trees, and running around barefoot in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town in North Carolina. They are a junior double major in art history and studio art, and love spending time in the arb, Sayles Hill Campus Center, and the Weitz Center for Creativity. Ren is the co-president of Carleton’s QuestBridge chapter, and also works with other equity programs on campus.