Does the fast pace of the quarter system impact student health?

The many books of a busy DU student.

The many books of a busy DU student.

As a smaller and privately funded institution, the University of Denver chooses to utilize a unique 10-week quarter system rather than the traditional 16-week semester system. The shortened time period forces students to traverse the college education experience differently, including more class choices per year and a quicker style of teaching. While it may seem more engaging and immersive, the large amount of information that students need to learn within the ten weeks can have both negative and positive effects.

The quick pacing has forced some students at the University of Denver to change the way they learn and absorb the information. Transitioning from spending lots of time on subjects to a faster-paced learning style can be difficult and effect memorization. For example, 22-year-old senior Brielle Durant mentioned that, “the fast pace does sometimes affect my learning style because I am the kind of person that needs time for information to sink in, rather than being expected to know it almost immediately.” However, Durant did note that, “sometimes repetition can be really helpful for me but with the fast pace I just don’t get that a lot in the classroom.”

The independence and self-reliance expected of students forces them to spend considerable time planning and scheduling their studying time and homework. Jacquelyn Sublett, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Denver, spoke on the time management skills she needed to learn in order to traverse the quarter system. “The pace will destroy your GPA if you don’t learn time management,” said Sublett. “I’ve always had to plan out my study times way ahead of assignments so that midterms and finals can’t sneak up on me.” This learning curve can be viewed positively, as Sublett’s sentiment was echoed by Annie Liu, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Denver. Instead of being stressed by the system, she says that the pace of the program is preparatory for her future life as a hospitality professional. Liu stated, “I personally like the pace, it pushes me to learn faster which will help me in the long run.”

However preparatory the pace may be, it effects the lives of students outside of school and the classroom. Liu noted that, “a lot of the time, I feel like I don’t have a social life because school can get so hectic. I am constantly bombarded with tests and homework.” As stated by a study from the American Psychosomatic Society, “social support can protect people in crisis from a wide variety of pathological states.” The stress combined with the lack of time students have to complete assignments and work can make them feel overwhelmed. Sublett states “the pacing and intensity has affected my social life in the way that it makes me want to cut loose even more to relieve stress,” a sentiment that can be dangerous for some students.

In a study conducted by Shannon Beckemeyer-Vance of McKendree University, “higher occurrences of stressors were related to higher levels of alcohol consumption,” leading to almost half of college students partaking in binge drinking and high risk activities. At the University of Denver, there were 16 cases reported by Campus Safety of liquor law and drug abuse violations. Stress can also lead to lack of sleep, a topic that is often disregarded by students. According to a study from Department of Psychology at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, “college students are not aware of the extent to which sleep deprivation negatively affects their ability to complete cognitive tasks,” which could mean ineffective studying, bad decision making or general health problems.

In light of the dangers the stress of a fast-paced can cause, the University of Denver offers many types of support services, including counseling at the Health Center, events throughout the year, and increased support during times of high-stress, such as finals. However, these services might not be enough for students. When asked if she felt satisfactory with the services, Sublett replied, “I find the stress relief events on campus very helpful, but I think there should be an increase in stress relief events during Winter Quarter because it is nearly impossible to stay motivated during the winter.” Though it might mean an increase in expenditures for the University, the mental health and wellness of its students is vital for its continued success.

The Ritchie Center, where the Health and Counseling Center is located.

The Ritchie Center, where the Health and Counseling Center is located.

Teachers are also often viewed as a support system. In regards to the help needed by students during the ten weeks, Durant states, “my only support at du is my professors so sometimes I feel like they understand.” However, she also recognized that “it’s difficult both for the faculty and the students to have to teach and learn everything in just ten weeks.” The stress can also be felt by the professors, who have to crunch a lot of information into a short period of time. Students often feel that the pacing of their classes are strange, as Sublett says “I ended up having multiple finals in one class,” something that can cause a lot of confusion. In regards to the awkward pace of classes, students have some recommendations for the professors and administration, mostly commenting on the timing for assignments and tests. Liu wants the “class schedule to be more organized and concentrate on Monday through Thursday,” rather than relying so much on homework and assignments. Durant said that it is important to “work with students when they are dealing with understanding the material in such short time, and with getting papers/projects turned in on time because so much gets thrown at us all at once because of the quarter system.”

While the quick pace of the quarter system encourages more advanced study habits, students are often felt left behind or stressed due to the workload. Students need increased support systems and a more thoughtful timing process from administration in order to be more successful and grow to their full potential.

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