How bad is the trimester system at UNSW? (1 Viewer)

TeheeCat

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Hi all!

So to my surprise, I've made the guaranteed entry score to study Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Science at UNSW. My other options are Macquarie (same degree) and USYD (Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Advanced Studies). Now I'm very indecisive as to which university to pick.

Honestly, I was already leaning towards USYD/Macquarie because of the hate UNSW gets for its trimester system. But now I'm having second thoughts especially after reaching the guaranteed entry score. Another reason I'm indecisive is because I like the course structure UNSW offers: one commerce major + one science major + science electives which I could use for Computer Science. I have yet to find out if I can take Computer Science/IT electives at USYD and Macquarie, need to do more research into USYD's course structure.

So I shall ask this to finalise my preferences before tomorrow midnight: Is the trimester system truly as bad as people make it out to be? Or is the hate actually over exaggerated?

All answers are appreciated but I'm more interested to hear from those who studied under the trimester system from first year. Figured that students who transitioned from semesters to trimesters would be the most unhappy with the current system.

Thank you in advance!
 

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It would be more beneficial to also get feedback from those who have transitioned from semesters to trimesters. It's precisely because they experienced both that makes their experience valuable. Having feedback from someone who has gone through both will give you the pros/cons of the systems between each uni, which I'm assuming is what you want to compare. There's not much point getting feedback from those who have only gone through one system or the other, since they have no other system to compare it to.

I've only gone through the semester system, so I can't say. However, I've heard nonstop bitching about the trimester system from others, with one of the major complaints being that the courses are way too condensed when compared with how they were previously. I originally thought it could possibly mean shorter degrees, but apparently all the degrees are still the same length. This would then mean that they're taking 50% more courses, which doesn't seem right, so I'm not entirely sure how that works. If the courses are still the same price, then would that mean 50% more fees? If that's the case, then it definitely sounds like a cash grab. Maybe someone with more insight can clarify.

Also, I'm fairly sure you can take CS/IT electives at USYD. Almost every degree has electives for you to take.
 
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IMO the problem was less about the trimester system and moreso how the transitioning was handled by the staff/course convenors etc.

For the most part it was fine to me, but you could definitely tell the course convenors were experimenting with the change and not all of these experiments worked out so well.

But say you pick USyd or MQ due to above reasons. What are you going to do if they decide to move to trimesters as well?
 

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But say you pick USyd or MQ due to above reasons. What are you going to do if they decide to move to trimesters as well?
Yeah this. It was one of my main concerns as well.
Unis love money and Trimesters is a cash grab so Usyd and Maq might change as well.

However I must say there IS heaps of workload. Idk if this is just because its Unsw and it's expected that you can keep up with it or because of the Trimester system. It sucks but it's honestly not THAT bad but I have nothing to compare it too so maybe it is bad but I'm just used to it.

The best person to ask would probably be @jazz519 as he's experienced both worlds..
 

jazz519

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Yeah this. It was one of my main concerns as well.
Unis love money and Trimesters is a cash grab so Usyd and Maq might change as well.

However I must say there IS heaps of workload. Idk if this is just because its Unsw and it's expected that you can keep up with it or because of the Trimester system. It sucks but it's honestly not THAT bad but I have nothing to compare it too so maybe it is bad but I'm just used to it.

The best person to ask would probably be @jazz519 as he's experienced both worlds..
It really depends on the degree I would say. Some degrees work well in trimesters others don’t. My degree (advanced science major in Chem) is one that got screwed because those 3 weeks mean that everything is crammed so much. Just to give you like an outline of how much we had to do: we had 3 assignments (answer like 20-30 marks of questions), 8 labs (lab report for each + quiz + prelab) and mid sem. That becomes a lot when something is due every few days. the classes are pretty long too like Chem we have 4 hr lectures a week and 4 hr lab. And if you try do like 2 Chem subjects in the same trimester that’s going to be a lot of work. I like how the Chem courses are structured but it feels like it would better in a semester, because the lecturers have a dilemma where they can either teach less content and give us easier workload (but issue of you miss out on important info for your degree) or they can keep everything in like they are now (means stressful for the students).

So yeah that is not great, but unsw has a lot of good lecturers and stuff in Chem so even if there was the trimester I wouldn’t change. Because there’s also a lot of scholarships in the science fields which is what attracted me initially (it seemed like they were investing a lot into the science faculty). Also other opportunities that I don’t know if they are available at mq include being able to apply for summer research scholarship (which I’m doing at the moment and learning a tonne from)

so it’s best to speak to people who are specifically doing the degree you want to do, because my business school friends and comp sci friends in later years aren’t that affected by it from speaking to them
 

TeheeCat

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Thank you all for your responses! :)
It would be more beneficial to also get feedback from those who have transitioned from semesters to trimesters. It's precisely because they experienced both that makes their experience valuable. Having feedback from someone who has gone through both will give you the pros/cons of the systems between each uni, which I'm assuming is what you want to compare. There's not much point getting feedback from those who have only gone through one system or the other, since they have no other system to compare it to.

I've only gone through the semester system, so I can't say. However, I've heard nonstop bitching about the trimester system from others, with one of the major complaints being that the courses are way too condensed when compared with how they were previously. I originally thought it could possibly mean shorter degrees, but apparently all the degrees are still the same length. This would then mean that they're taking 50% more courses, which doesn't seem right, so I'm not entirely sure how that works. If the courses are still the same price, then would that mean 50% more fees? If that's the case, then it definitely sounds like a cash grab. Maybe someone with more insight can clarify.

Also, I'm fairly sure you can take CS/IT electives at USYD. Almost every degree has electives for you to take.
You make a really good point there. I was initially interested in hearing from first years because a family member who's pro-UNSW discouraged me to listen to those who transitioned from semesters to trimesters as my experiences would be different anyway and so there would be no point. But now thinking about what you suggest, there is indeed a point so thank you lots for that. :)

I'm not 100% sure about the whole fees/time thing, though I heard you graduate sooner.



IMO the problem was less about the trimester system and moreso how the transitioning was handled by the staff/course convenors etc.

For the most part it was fine to me, but you could definitely tell the course convenors were experimenting with the change and not all of these experiments worked out so well.

But say you pick USyd or MQ due to above reasons. What are you going to do if they decide to move to trimesters as well?
So from what I understand, the problem lies with the staff adapting to the new changes? That does make sense considering it's the first year trimesters are implemented.

If USYD/Macquarie changes to trimesters while I'm enrolled there, I would probably have no choice but to endure it especially if such change occurs during 3rd/4th years. I know external transfers are common but as much as possible, I wish to avoid that. Would only resort to it if I have a complete change of heart in regards to what course I study and said course is better at another university. Another reason I would hesitate is due to the risk of losing opportunities e.g. If I transferred away from USYD's Business School, I don't think I would have access to the same networking opportunities and industry placements at say, WSU. At least for now, I have a choice to avoid trimesters.


Yeah this. It was one of my main concerns as well.
Unis love money and Trimesters is a cash grab so Usyd and Maq might change as well.

However I must say there IS heaps of workload. Idk if this is just because its Unsw and it's expected that you can keep up with it or because of the Trimester system. It sucks but it's honestly not THAT bad but I have nothing to compare it too so maybe it is bad but I'm just used to it.

The best person to ask would probably be @jazz519 as he's experienced both worlds..
This is something I fear too during the next decade and probably another reason why I'm very indecisive- because universities might eventually change to trimesters anyway. Wouldn't be surprised if that actually happened!

Would it be okay if you told me about how intense the workload is for you? Like how close are the assessments are or what is it like to prepare for exams. Also, is it true that contact hours are reduced and some lectures moved to online? That's something I heard about as well.

It really depends on the degree I would say. Some degrees work well in trimesters others don’t. My degree (advanced science major in Chem) is one that got screwed because those 3 weeks mean that everything is crammed so much. Just to give you like an outline of how much we had to do: we had 3 assignments (answer like 20-30 marks of questions), 8 labs (lab report for each + quiz + prelab) and mid sem. That becomes a lot when something is due every few days. the classes are pretty long too like Chem we have 4 hr lectures a week and 4 hr lab. And if you try do like 2 Chem subjects in the same trimester that’s going to be a lot of work. I like how the Chem courses are structured but it feels like it would better in a semester, because the lecturers have a dilemma where they can either teach less content and give us easier workload (but issue of you miss out on important info for your degree) or they can keep everything in like they are now (means stressful for the students).

So yeah that is not great, but unsw has a lot of good lecturers and stuff in Chem so even if there was the trimester I wouldn’t change. Because there’s also a lot of scholarships in the science fields which is what attracted me initially (it seemed like they were investing a lot into the science faculty). Also other opportunities that I don’t know if they are available at mq include being able to apply for summer research scholarship (which I’m doing at the moment and learning a tonne from)

so it’s best to speak to people who are specifically doing the degree you want to do, because my business school friends and comp sci friends in later years aren’t that affected by it from speaking to them
Thank you for this! This is another thing I've heard as well - science and engineering courses are generally more disadvantaged by the trimester system because of the extra labs required. And that whole cramming content doesn't sound fun at all. :(

I should have specified earlier: I'm actually not pursuing Chemistry/Physics/Bio but rather Statistics. And I will definitely ask someone about that, just that I'm not sure who to ask. Do you by any chance know BoSers studying Commerce and Statistics as well? If not, do you know anyone from Actuarial Studies or Data Science and Decisions? Those two degrees would be the most related degrees to what I'm studying, I suppose.

If it isn't too much trouble, would it be alright for you to talk about the pros and cons of both semesters and trimesters? Like are there other things I should be aware of apart from shorter breaks and content being crammed to the point it affects course quality?
 

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Thank you all for your responses! :)


You make a really good point there. I was initially interested in hearing from first years because a family member who's pro-UNSW discouraged me to listen to those who transitioned from semesters to trimesters as my experiences would be different anyway and so there would be no point. But now thinking about what you suggest, there is indeed a point so thank you lots for that. :)

I'm not 100% sure about the whole fees/time thing, though I heard you graduate sooner.





So from what I understand, the problem lies with the staff adapting to the new changes? That does make sense considering it's the first year trimesters are implemented.

If USYD/Macquarie changes to trimesters while I'm enrolled there, I would probably have no choice but to endure it especially if such change occurs during 3rd/4th years. I know external transfers are common but as much as possible, I wish to avoid that. Would only resort to it if I have a complete change of heart in regards to what course I study and said course is better at another university. Another reason I would hesitate is due to the risk of losing opportunities e.g. If I transferred away from USYD's Business School, I don't think I would have access to the same networking opportunities and industry placements at say, WSU. At least for now, I have a choice to avoid trimesters.




This is something I fear too during the next decade and probably another reason why I'm very indecisive- because universities might eventually change to trimesters anyway. Wouldn't be surprised if that actually happened!

Would it be okay if you told me about how intense the workload is for you? Like how close are the assessments are or what is it like to prepare for exams. Also, is it true that contact hours are reduced and some lectures moved to online? That's something I heard about as well.



Thank you for this! This is another thing I've heard as well - science and engineering courses are generally more disadvantaged by the trimester system because of the extra labs required. And that whole cramming content doesn't sound fun at all. :(

I should have specified earlier: I'm actually not pursuing Chemistry/Physics/Bio but rather Statistics. And I will definitely ask someone about that, just that I'm not sure who to ask. Do you by any chance know BoSers studying Commerce and Statistics as well? If not, do you know anyone from Actuarial Studies or Data Science and Decisions? Those two degrees would be the most related degrees to what I'm studying, I suppose.

If it isn't too much trouble, would it be alright for you to talk about the pros and cons of both semesters and trimesters? Like are there other things I should be aware of apart from shorter breaks and content being crammed to the point it affects course quality?
I don’t personally know anyone studying that. But I also do a math minor (so similar to stats I guess). Maths in a trimester is fine because you are just learning content from lectures and tutorials. In the trimester I found my maths courses it felt like the same as the semester. Science / engineering is where it gets annoying because of sometimes you have projects or labs so instead of having let’s say 8 weeks or so to do it you end up with like 4-5 in a trimester

in terms of pros and cons. I honestly can’t see any pro of the trimester compared to semester. In my opinion it’s literally all cons and basically every single thing they said would improve under a trimester was a lie (I’ll explain more below on this). Maybe you can manage trimester better in different degrees and that could outweigh the disadvantages because unsw lecturers and etc are really good in my opinion.

So for example they said you can finish ur degree faster. Maybe this is true for people who have just started fresh in the trimester, but for people who came from the semester likely not. But the amount ur gonna finish faster maybe by like 1 term or 2 term, in my opinion is not worth it because you are finishing faster but at what cost? You get less holidays (finish later in the year like we had exams in mid December while all my other friends finished exams maybe 10th November, we start earlier too like 2 weeks before everyone)

Moreover holidays are literally screwed in terms of its hard to make plans with friends you have at other Unis because the break periods don’t line up

They also said things like it gives you more flexibility in internships and stuff. Big lie because internships normally begin mid to end of November but how can you manage to get the most out of an internship when you are having uni at the same time. One of my friends he is doing an internship this year and he had exams going on during the first 2 weeks of that internship. I also had a similar problem at the moment I am doing a summer research scholarship project in school of chemistry, and usually that project starts mid November but this time it started like basically 1 day after my exams on 7th December. Really stressful not having any break.

But you have to take into consideration though my experience may be different to others because In uni I’m aiming to get like 1st in courses and stuff so there’s a lot of study an average student wouldn’t be doing, while trying to work like 20-30 hours a week in tutoring so my job may be a contributing factor to me feeling like I am being crammed. Also because the nature of tutoring means like sometimes my exams end up lining up with the students doing their hsc and assignments etc. so sometimes the workload builds up so fast because I’m trying to manage helping the students while also doing whatever test or assignment I have. If you work less hours and in a job where you can take like offs when you have exams, probably easier to manage.
 

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I don’t personally know anyone studying that. But I also do a math minor (so similar to stats I guess). Maths in a trimester is fine because you are just learning content from lectures and tutorials. In the trimester I found my maths courses it felt like the same as the semester. Science / engineering is where it gets annoying because of sometimes you have projects or labs so instead of having let’s say 8 weeks or so to do it you end up with like 4-5 in a trimester

in terms of pros and cons. I honestly can’t see any pro of the trimester compared to semester. In my opinion it’s literally all cons and basically every single thing they said would improve under a trimester was a lie (I’ll explain more below on this). Maybe you can manage trimester better in different degrees and that could outweigh the disadvantages because unsw lecturers and etc are really good in my opinion.

So for example they said you can finish ur degree faster. Maybe this is true for people who have just started fresh in the trimester, but for people who came from the semester likely not. But the amount ur gonna finish faster maybe by like 1 term or 2 term, in my opinion is not worth it because you are finishing faster but at what cost? You get less holidays (finish later in the year like we had exams in mid December while all my other friends finished exams maybe 10th November, we start earlier too like 2 weeks before everyone)

Moreover holidays are literally screwed in terms of its hard to make plans with friends you have at other Unis because the break periods don’t line up

They also said things like it gives you more flexibility in internships and stuff. Big lie because internships normally begin mid to end of November but how can you manage to get the most out of an internship when you are having uni at the same time. One of my friends he is doing an internship this year and he had exams going on during the first 2 weeks of that internship. I also had a similar problem at the moment I am doing a summer research scholarship project in school of chemistry, and usually that project starts mid November but this time it started like basically 1 day after my exams on 7th December. Really stressful not having any break.

But you have to take into consideration though my experience may be different to others because In uni I’m aiming to get like 1st in courses and stuff so there’s a lot of study an average student wouldn’t be doing, while trying to work like 20-30 hours a week in tutoring so my job may be a contributing factor to me feeling like I am being crammed. Also because the nature of tutoring means like sometimes my exams end up lining up with the students doing their hsc and assignments etc. so sometimes the workload builds up so fast because I’m trying to manage helping the students while also doing whatever test or assignment I have. If you work less hours and in a job where you can take like offs when you have exams, probably easier to manage.
Wow... I always had the vague idea that trimesters are bad but your post really spelled it out for me. That whole thing about not making the most of internships is the greatest concern for me because I personally consider work experience/career opportunities to be the most important factor alongside the quality of faculty when choosing universities. To be caught up on exams like that would be a serious disadvantage. Unless UNSW and businesses somehow cooperate together to ensure UNSW students make the most out of their internships (which I seriously doubt TBH), I'm staying away. 😬 That being said though, I'm quite relieved to know that studying maths/stats under a trimester system wouldn't be too bad. So I guess if USYD/MQ ever does change to trimesters in the future, I would somewhat be able to cope for the most part. 😅 And I don't plan to work too many hours either, so that should also help.

Definitely sticking with USYD Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Advanced Studies or MQ then. Thank you so much for your help! :)
 

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Wow... I always had the vague idea that trimesters are bad but your post really spelled it out for me. That whole thing about not making the most of internships is the greatest concern for me because I personally consider work experience/career opportunities to be the most important factor alongside the quality of faculty when choosing universities. To be caught up on exams like that would be a serious disadvantage. Unless UNSW and businesses somehow cooperate together to ensure UNSW students make the most out of their internships (which I seriously doubt TBH), I'm staying away. 😬 That being said though, I'm quite relieved to know that studying maths/stats under a trimester system wouldn't be too bad. So I guess if USYD/MQ ever does change to trimesters in the future, I would somewhat be able to cope for the most part. 😅 And I don't plan to work too many hours either, so that should also help.

Definitely sticking with USYD Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Advanced Studies or MQ then. Thank you so much for your help! :)
Yeah maybe though talk to some more people in your specific degree before making a final decision. It might helpful to go ask on the unsw reddit forum before there will be more people from unsw there
 

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Trimesters - A guide by a current student (me xd)

Study med? it literally does not matter, they don't do trimesters

Do you want to do exchange? trimesters are pretty bad since the dates may or may not line up.
Do you need to do industrial training? Trimesters are pretty bad (but some companies will make your life easier - I predict this will improve over time)
Are you taking a language course? Good luck. Languages take time to learn and you effectively have 2 less weeks to learn and practice the language.

If none of those apply to you:
Pros:
- Time to course ratio for studying is higher (lets be honest you only study the week before finals, so studying 2-3 instead of 4 is easier)
- Easier to underload without it screwing up your degree (taking 2 courses is nice, and you can do that once a year without falling behind)
- Laughing at the #CancelTrimesters people is a good way to pass the time

Cons:
- Staff are overworked, meaning less time gets dedicated to your assignments, exams, etc. (For example, a few courses I have taken have now opted to MC exams instead of short resopnse, simply due to not enough marking time/staff/resources).
- I think full time status is harder to achieve? I believe you need at least one course every trimester, but don't quote me on that.
- I am so sick of trimester jokes pls stop

Overall, it's really bad for some people, really good for some other people, and imo a tiny improvement for most (students - it's largely bad for staff). People will complain about it a lot. I have heard so many people complaining about problems in courses due to trimesters but... if you look back a few years those problems were already there. Those who complain are just very vocal.

Note: This is written from the perspective of a Computer Science and Mathematics student + Computer Science tutor
oh and my personal opinion is I like them and benefit from them - seriously made my life in maths so much easier
 

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Trimesters - A guide by a current student (me xd)

Study med? it literally does not matter, they don't do trimesters

Do you want to do exchange? trimesters are pretty bad since the dates may or may not line up.
Do you need to do industrial training? Trimesters are pretty bad (but some companies will make your life easier - I predict this will improve over time)
Are you taking a language course? Good luck. Languages take time to learn and you effectively have 2 less weeks to learn and practice the language.

If none of those apply to you:
Pros:
- Time to course ratio for studying is higher (lets be honest you only study the week before finals, so studying 2-3 instead of 4 is easier)
- Easier to underload without it screwing up your degree (taking 2 courses is nice, and you can do that once a year without falling behind)
- Laughing at the #CancelTrimesters people is a good way to pass the time

Cons:
- Staff are overworked, meaning less time gets dedicated to your assignments, exams, etc. (For example, a few courses I have taken have now opted to MC exams instead of short resopnse, simply due to not enough marking time/staff/resources).
- I think full time status is harder to achieve? I believe you need at least one course every trimester, but don't quote me on that.
- I am so sick of trimester jokes pls stop

Overall, it's really bad for some people, really good for some other people, and imo a tiny improvement for most (students - it's largely bad for staff). People will complain about it a lot. I have heard so many people complaining about problems in courses due to trimesters but... if you look back a few years those problems were already there. Those who complain are just very vocal.

Note: This is written from the perspective of a Computer Science and Mathematics student + Computer Science tutor
oh and my personal opinion is I like them and benefit from them - seriously made my life in maths so much easier
That is true plus my Brother is also studying Advanced Maths (Hons)/Computer Science at UNSW as well but he will be doing his Hons year starting in 2020.
 

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