Summer, Winter & Spring Breaks in US Colleges: How Long Are They?

Last Updated on August 5, 2022 by David Shaw

Summer, Winter & Spring Breaks in US Colleges How Long Are They

In a typical academic year in college, students get to enjoy 3 long breaks during the seasons that are longer than a long weekend. While the seasonal break durations might vary across different universities, they’re usually only a few weeks apart.

SummerAround 3 months
Winter2-3 weeks
Spring1-2 weeks

Different universities might use different terms such as Winter ‘recess’ instead of breaks but they mean the same thing. Although most universities offer the same seasonal holiday breaks, it is also worth noting that semester and quarter system schools usually don’t exactly share the same duration of holidays.

When is Summer break?

Summer break is usually the most popular and anticipated holiday for everyone especially the students because they can choose to have up to a little over 3 months or 1.5 months of break from school depending on if they wish to take Summer classes.

SummerAround 3 monthsMid-June to mid-August

In the US and Canada, summer holidays typically start around mid-June to mid-August. While in the UK, summer breaks happen between July to September.

Given that most of the days are warm and sunny, people can get out and be the most active with all kinds of hobbies among other seasons. However, if you feel like you can stay productive by taking classes the next Summer instead, check out our article on 9 Helpful Benefits Students Get From Summer Classes.

Types of Classes Offered During Summer Breaks

Summer classes in universities are usually flexible and a few weeks shorter than the typical Spring or Fall term. Across different universities, will you likely see 3 different formats of Summer classes being offered that vary in their duration.

Types of Summer coursesDuration
Normal Summer Session5-7 weeks
First session (First half of Summer)3-5 weeks
Second session (Second half of Summer)3-5 weeks

Essentially, Summer classes that have the first and second sessions are split between the Summer season, whereas normal Summer classes offered in most universities are no longer than 2 months.

As an example, the University of California- San Diego offers summer classes in above mentioned format, which gives students more flexibility and ways to spend Summer productively by taking classes. You should also know that the number of classes offered during the Summer is usually very limited, and often also quick-paced and heavily condensed with lecture materials.

When is Winter Break?

Next to the longest Summer break during the academic year comes Winter break, which usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks from around mid-December until early January.

Winter2-3 weeksMid-December to early January

Winter break usually happens after the final exams in Fall (Autumn) semester or quarter, and students can make use of this holiday to spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year back home with their friends and family.

Some schools might use other terms for Winter break

If you look around the academic calendar of some colleges and find terms like Winter ‘recess’ rather than Winter ‘break’ or ‘holidays’, they all usually mean the same thing.

Some universities also label Winter holidays as ‘academic holidays’, which usually include a collection of Year-end holidays, and New Year holidays that take place back to back until the start of Spring classes.

Planning ahead for college vacations trips

If you wish to go overseas or travel across different states for vacation, know that it is the busiest festive season of the year which should hint at you to make your plans ahead of time.

For the info about all the holidays in an academic year across US colleges, check out this article on How Many Days of Holiday Are There in US Colleges? Lists of All Holidays.

Winter breaks are especially nice and by far my favorite breaks of the academic year since it has the most vibrant festive celebrations and ample amount of time to rest your mind before you welcome the next semester or quarter, that is the Spring.

When is Spring Break?

Spring breaks are the shortest break among the 3 college seasonal breaks in the academic year, lasting between 1 to 2 weeks maximum depending on your university. Spring breaks usually happen in March or April, just before the start of Spring classes.

Spring1-2 weeksLate March or early April

Although Spring break is the shortest, it is often known as the most popular holiday among college students as they can do many similar activities in the Summer, like outdoor activities while they enjoy the last moments of warm weather before school and colder weather starts.

‘Dead Weeks’ Before Finals Examination

Speaking of a short week, it is worth noting that schools following the Quarter system usually don’t offer students ‘dead week’, which is known as the week of study before finals weeks approach.

Given the short duration of a quarter term which is usually 3-4 weeks lesser than a semester, universities following the quarter systems only give students a weekend of study break to fully prepare for the finals exams which have its quirks and drawbacks depending on how you look at it.

To better understand the differences between quarter and semester system schools, check out this other article on a list of Best Easy-A Classes to Boost Your GPA in College.

Some Universities Have Shorter Breaks Compared to Others

It is totally normal to find the duration of these seasonal holiday breaks varying across different universities. This happens because universities might make yearly adjustments to the number of weeks of school each semester or quarter has.

Eventually, they will normally balance out and should have the same number of total holidays yearly when combined, since some holidays that are shorter than usual get recouped in other holidays.

So if find that your friends from other universities might enjoy their breaks a week earlier or longer than yours, know that there will likely be times when they will be in your place.

What Is a Long Weekend Break?

A long weekend as you will hear people say a lot in college is when a national holiday coincidentally lands right before Saturdays or after Sundays. Holidays that fall on either of those days give students 3 to 4 days of a break with Saturday and Sundays included, which is an ample amount of break time to get a lot of work done.

Common long weekends that happen yearly in college

Thanks to floating holidays in the US, there is a handful of long weekends students will get to enjoy, mainly because of public holidays like Martin Luther King Jr Day, Presidents’ Day, and Memorial Day which all fall on Mondays. During these holidays, you get to enjoy long weekends of 3 days in which you can quite a lot of things done.

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it always falls on the 4th Thursday of every November, and the following Friday will also be a holiday, giving me 4 days of a long weekend.

HolidayDate (Same Day Year)
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday3rd Monday of January
Presidents’ Holiday3rd Monday of February
Memorial DayLast Monday of May
Labor Day1st Monday of September
Thanksgiving Holiday4th Thursday of November

More Resources

Best Easy-A Classes to Boost Your GPA in College

9 Helpful Benefits Students Get From Summer Classes

How Many Days of Holiday Are There in US Colleges? Lists of All Holidays

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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