At Spalding University, a typical undergraduate student can expect the following:
**Final-exam weeks with only one or two tests to cram for.
**Opportunities to focus all your class and study time on a course you really love, or on a course you find really difficult and needs extra attention.
**A full week off every six weeks to recharge your batteries and do what you want to do.
That sounds pretty good, right?
That’s how it works all year at Spalding, which is unique from other universities in Kentucky by having a nontraditional academic schedule made up of six six-week blocks in which students typically take only one or two classes at a time.
“When I first heard about it,” Spalding sophomore health science major Ontario Hullum said, “I thought it was too good to be true.”
But it is true. Spalding was ranked by CollegeRaptor.com as one of the nation’s five best colleges with nontraditional schedules.
Hullum said Spalding’s schedule makes college feel less stressful.
“At other colleges, you take like five exams toward the end of a semester, and that’s real stressful and makes that whole week really hectic,” he said. “Here, you take two exams every session, and it just spreads things out.”
Spalding’s format is designed for students still to graduate in four years and get all the credits they need. Staff and faculty advisers work closely with students to help them stay on top of their requirements.
“(The six-week schedule) makes it easier for you to do your work and manage your time,” said Marcus Montgomery, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “Instead of having five classes throughout the week, you have only two at the most, and you definitely have time to do your work.”
Now that he’s accustomed to the rhythm of taking one or two classes at a time for six weeks each, Montgomery said, “I couldn’t imagine going to another school and taking like five classes for a whole semester.”
How Spalding’s block schedules work
Spalding has six six-week sessions (three per semester) during the primary academic year, plus another six-week session during the summer.
Just like at universities with traditional semester-long sessions, Spalding advises students to take an average of 15 credit hours (or essentially five classes at three credit hours each) per semester, according to Academic Support Director Katherine Walker-Payne.
With three six-week blocks per semester, that means that a typical Spalding student might have one six-week session with one class per semester and two six-week sessions with two classes per semester. (Some students take more than two classes in a session, potentially setting themselves up to graduate in less than four years.)
A typical class meets four straight days each week (Monday through Thursday) for 100 minutes, condensing more class time into a shorter period. (Another popular aspect for undergrads is that almost everyone has Fridays off.)
Junior Carly Lynch said the six-week sessions were the main reason she chose Spalding, and they’ve helped her succeed in working toward a double major in health science and psychology.
Lynch knew she wanted to pursue a career in occupational therapy, and she liked that Spalding would put her on that path while letting her focus at any given time on just one or two of her important required courses, instead of five or six at once.
“I have Anatomy and Physiology II right now, and I’m able to spend all my time on Anatomy and Physiology II and really learn the material rather than just study for a test,” she said.
Walker-Payne echoed the sentiment, saying that the Spalding system gives students “the opportunity to really immerse themselves in subject matter over a short duration of time.”
“It allows them to progress through their degree program efficiently so long as they stay on track with their courses scheduled each session,” she said. “Absolutely, it’s a great way for students to dig deep into topics and really have an opportunity for deep learning.”
Good for working students
Spalding students who have jobs said the schedule format makes it more convenient for them.
Pre-nursing major Olivia Johnson said being able to focus on one or two classes at a time makes it easier for her to have her job working the night shift at UPS.
Sophomore Brandon Cochran, who is majoring in creative writing, said he’s able to hold two jobs – in the university writing center and at a grocery store.
“I would not have that opportunity (to work) if I didn’t have these lighter class sessions (as far as number of courses being taken) that go by faster,” he said. “So if (wanting or needing a job during college) is a big priority, Spalding is definitely a good place because this is one of the few places you are going to be able to work a lot of hours and also not ruin yourself (academically), because Spalding’s class schedule is so flexible and manageable.”
Every 6 weeks, take a break
Students said they enjoy the weeklong breaks that follow the completion of each six-week session.
On break weeks, students often take a vacation, relax at home or pick up a few hours at their jobs. Students said their parents enjoy it, too, because it offers families frequent chances to reconnect.
“It’s fantastic,” Cochran said. “I’m sure everybody likes having breaks; I know I do. And we still finish on time, still have regular holidays and stuff like that. I think it’s great.”
The school year at Spalding does last a little longer than at most universities, extending into mid-June, but the breaks in between make up for it, Lynch said.
“It’s awesome,” said Lynch, who took a trip to Florida during a break week this fall. “I didn’t really understand it at first. I wondered if we would be in school for the same time as everyone else (as far as the yearly calendar), but we get out the same time as everyone else. It’s just a little later – in June – but with getting a week off every six weeks it’s worth it.”