Opinion | Fall and spring semester aren’t created equal


Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor

Graduates of the class of 2021 at graduation last spring.

By Jessica Snyder, Staff Columnist

Since coming to Pitt in 2019, I haven’t really had a normal semester, so sometimes the fall and spring semesters can seem similar. But from what I can tell, there are some distinct differences between the two, and I personally find the spring semester to be the better one.

Both semesters have plenty of variables that make them different experiences for students at Pitt. These semesters, often the primary mode for educating full-time students, are inherently unequal. While there are summer and winter break classes offered, students usually opt for a school year that spans from the fall to the spring. 

My birthday falls during the spring semester, which highly influences my opinion when deciding which semester is better. I also like the way the seasons slowly transition from winter to spring in the new year, as well as the end of daylight saving time. Although there is less vacation time in the spring semester, the summer between the fall and spring semesters is well worth the wait.

Most of these differences come from the simple nature of time and weather. Winter is cold and dark while summer is hot and bright, but both main semesters get a glimpse of long days and sunshine at some point. In the fall semester we have the end of daylight saving time, while the spring semester marks its beginning. Both semesters are largely transitional periods within the year, gradually easing into seasonal extremes in both instances. 

Fall and spring semesters both include winter — fall sees the beginning of it and spring sees the end. When looking at the bigger picture of the year, winter usually marks the end of things. As it becomes colder and darker outside, summer activities like The Shady Dog and Jam on Walnut begin to close down, making a reappearance toward the end of the spring semester. 

The start of winter also means the end of daylight too. Right now, I am dreaming of days where the sun stays up after 5 p.m. The spring semester offers a return to longer days, so I prefer the spring semester for this reason. Regardless, the seasons experienced within the fall and spring semesters provide a different feeling from one semester to the next.

With that being said, vacation times are a large factor when I consider which semester is better. Considering mental health days, Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving, winter break and spring break, both semesters are about even when it comes to time off. However, the spring semester puts an emphasis on relaxation — often beckoning students to the beach with their friends.

Pitt’s football season was pretty spectacular this year, which might make the spring semester seem dull in comparison at Pitt at least. I’m not really a sports person, but it is nice to have bragging rights when your team is doing well. As of right now, Pitt’s fall semester overshadows its spring semester athletically. Other schools that regularly participate in March Madness might put more emphasis on the spring semester accordingly.

There are other ways, such as class registration, in which the fall semester can be more forgiving than the spring semester. Fall semester classes are generally more plentiful with more available prerequisites, making spring semester classes seem harder in comparison. Time and weather also come into play here once again, as some classes are just more optimal to teach in the fall semester if they include outdoor field work.

There is also an oddity during scheduling at Pitt that generally doesn’t favor the spring semester. In a five-year academic cycle at Pitt, before the pandemic, 60% of spring semesters will start on a Wednesday, while only 40% will start on a Monday. While this might not matter outwardly to most, starting the spring semester in the middle of a work week may put a wrench in the plans of students who live outside of Pennsylvania in terms of planning transportation.

But overall, for me, the spring semester is the most favorable semester, although there is merit in believing the fall semester is better. With the spring semester starting, we can be confident that some students are starting off the term on a good note with the schedule of their preferred semester ahead.

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about controversy in art and politics. Write to her at [email protected].