Georgia Lodewyk — Staff Writer
As many college students prepare for winter break, students at Dordt University face a frustrating reality: they will get out later than many college students around the country. Dordt’s winter break officially begins on Dec. 21, just four days before Christmas. The later start to the Christmas holiday mirrors the later start to the semester in August than what was seen in the previous two years.
“We need a minimum of 42 Monday, Wednesday, Friday class days and 28 Tuesday Thursday class days for 14 weeks of class; you then need a week of exams for a standard 15-week semester,” Jim Bos, Registrar and Director of Institutional Research.
Additionally, Dordt keeps the tradition of starting the fall semester on a Tuesday to avoid Sunday travel. With that criteria, the calendar was set in place. The fall semester began on Aug. 30, six days later than last year’s start date. The last day of exams, Dec. 20, is also six days later than the last day for the 2021 fall semester.
Dordt’s later calendar gives students a smaller window of time to make it home in time for family gatherings and Christmas reunions. This adds an additional headache during finals week for some students, including junior Emma Netjes, who has a Christmas gathering with her family before the end of the semester.
“Having Christmas break be shorter this year makes things very hard for traveling and seeing family,” Netjes said. “The holidays are a busy time and having only a few days before Christmas Day makes that nearly impossible.”
Upperclassmen remember Christmas break last winter, which ran from Dec. 15 through Jan. 13. With winter break starting six days later than last year and classes beginning a day earlier, on Jan. 12, Christmas break is indeed shorter.
This schedule looks different than other colleges in the area. Northwestern College in Orange City and the University of Iowa both began their semester on Aug. 22, and end earlier than Dordt, on Dec. 16. But Jim Bos said Dordt’s change in schedule is intentional— and not unusual. Because Dordt always begins on a Tuesday, the start date changes and crawls back one day each year.
“At some point, you need to stop the ‘crawl back’ and jump forward or classes would start earlier and earlier every year,” Bos said. “Dordt tries to keep that start of the semester between Aug. 23 and Aug. 30, meaning the end of the semester will be between Dec. 13 and Dec. 20. The 2022-23 academic year happened to be the fall we jumped forward.”
Bos said this Christmas break is not the latest they have seen. In 2017, exams went until Dec. 21. Since then, Dordt has eliminated a Friday “review day” from the academic calendar. Moving forward, Bos does not foresee the semester extending past Dec. 19.
“Students often wonder about the supposedly unusual start date— which really isn’t so unusual,” Leah Zuidema, Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “If the majority of students stayed for six years, they might notice the fluctuation in start dates. But the good news is that the vast majority of students graduate in four years or less, so it is understandable that students may be surprised to learn how the calendar rotates through a regular schedule.”
Photo credit: Dordt University