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Attending College on the Block Plan

Updated on December 29, 2012

Have you ever been overwhelmed by the number of classes you take in a semester? Struggled to prioritize between a history paper and a chemistry test? Scrambled to study and absorb information for too many finals at the end of a semester? Been forced to pack up a lab or clean up an art project when you were just starting to make progress so you could rush off to another class? If any of these experiences sound familiar, then you may want to consider attending college on the block plan.

What is the Block Plan?

The block plan is an academic calendar in which students take only one class at a time, with each lasting about eighteen days, or three and a half weeks. You learn just as much as you would in a semester, but in a shorter amount of time, which you spend completely immersed in the material instead of having to worry about other classes.

Four Great Things About the Block Plan

1) Focus
When you take a class on the block plan, you don't have to worry about multiple tests scheduled on the same day or class discussions cut short so you can rush off to another classroom the minute the clock strikes ten. Your one class will generally meet for two to four hours a day, and the rest of your time will be yours to structure as you see fit. And if your professor wants to schedule a field trip, you have all day to explore an art museum, visit an archaeological dig, or observe an elementary school classroom.

2) Travel
If the day trips I just mentioned sound good, try taking the ultimate field trip and studying in a foreign country. When you study abroad on the block plan, you can go anywhere and study anything for one month without having to worry about planning to be away for an entire semester. Want to go to Japan in April, but need to take an economics class that's only offered in May? No problem. You'll be back in plenty of time. Of course, this does not mean that the block plan precludes studying abroad for a full semester. Many block plan colleges have partnerships with schools in other countries or organizations like the Associated Colleges of the Midwest that offer semesters abroad in countries like India, South Africa, England, and Brazil.

3) Flexibility
Wanted to sign up for a Spanish class, but found it full with five other people on the waiting list? Need to go home for awhile, but still want to keep up with course work? Too sick to finish out your class? The block plan often provides the flexibility to solve these issues. Since you only take one class at a time, there's plenty of opportunity to plan as you go. So, if a space opens up in that Spanish class, or you change your mind in the middle of a semester about what class you want to take next block, simply go to the registrar and change it. You can also spend a month working exclusively on an internship or independent study, possibly from home or somewhere else. And, if you get sick and have to drop a class, your performance is only affected in that one class, instead of hurting your grades for the whole semester.

4) Individual Attention
On the block plan, students aren't the only ones taking one class at a time. Professors only teach one class per block, meaning that for three and a half weeks, they're focused entirely on the class you're taking and the students in it (who often number 25 or less). Got a question to ask after class? Your professor has probably got time to answer it. Have a personal issue or a special concern that's affecting your work? Your professor will listen. And, his or her entire teaching effort goes into your class, which is always your professor's top priority. As a block plan alum, I've even had professors treat the class to coffee and tea at a local shop or bring muffins and juice to morning final exams. Finally, as an added perk for those planning on applying to graduate school, after one or more classes with this kind of intense focus, your professors will know you when you come to ask for recommendations.

Cornell College Students and Professors Discuss the Block Plan

Block Plan Colleges

Want to learn more? Consider these seven block plan colleges, six in the US and one in Canada.

1) Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO

2) Cornell College in Mount Vernon, IA

3) University of Montana-Western in Dillon, MT

4) Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN

5) University of Southern Nevada in Henderson, NV

6) Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA

7) Quest University in Squamish, British Columbia


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    • pbsandwichofdoom profile image

      Kathryn Lamoreux 6 years ago

      Thanks, prektjr! I just graduated from Cornell College last spring and really benefited from my experience there, so I thought I'd share some information on Hubpages. Good luck to your son!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Wow! That would have been a really in depth way to learn! I really can see the benefits for many students! My youngest is currently in college and this would be ideal for his learning style! Thanks for sharing this information! I voted up, useful and interesting!