• Most colleges in the US start with the fall term in the month of August, although some start in September. This usually differs based on the academic calendar system they follow, such as the semester system or the quarter system.
  • Online colleges often have rolling admissions and multiple start dates per year.
  • You may be able to enroll in the middle of the year if your college lets you. 
  •   if you’re looking for a college, use our tool to help you find the right program

The research process to find the perfect college can be quite stressful. There are so many things to consider. Before diving headfirst into complicated territory, let’s tackle a simpler yet important question: When does college start in 2023? 

This article aims to equip you with all the necessary details you need to know about college start dates. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and kickstart your educational journey at the right time.

Knowing college start dates can be useful when selecting a college. Knowing the start dates helps you plan your schedule better. It also lets you make essential purchases on time–textbooks, clothes, and everything else you’d need. This way, you can be super-prepared for the first day of college.

Additionally, if you’re aware of college start dates, to mentally prepare for the journey ahead. If you’re an athlete hoping to join your college team, you may have to show up to campus a little earlier than the official start date. Many colleges also hold orientation programs around their start dates. Though not always mandatory, orientation programs can help you adjust to college life better. These programs offer valuable insights, resources, and connections, helping you navigate the new environment and feel more at ease.

Not all colleges follow the same calendars, so start dates and class schedules can differ greatly. Understanding the types of calendars that colleges usually follow can help you navigate the system and make better decisions.

Ever since college education became a ‘thing’, schools have tried to figure out the best system to organize the academic year, giving students enough time to learn, study and pursue their goals. Today, most colleges follow these popular calendar systems:

  • Semester System
  • Quarter System
  • Trimester System
  • Block System
  • 4-1-4 System

In this section, we’ll briefly take you through each system, focusing on important details of the semester system–followed by most colleges today.

Semester Calendar System

In the semester system, the academic calendar typically looks like this:

  • Fall Semester

Typical span: 

Late August to late December

Typical finals week: 


Holidays you could expect: 

Labor Day (September 4, 2023), 

Columbus Day (October 9, 2023),

Veterans’ Day (November 10-11, 2023)

Thanksgiving Break (around November 23, 2023) 

Approximate start date:

For the academic year 2023-24, you can expect the fall semester to start around August 25, 2023.* 

  • Winter Break

Winter break typically starts around late December and ends mid-January, i.e. just before Christmas to after New Year’s. Students are expected to return back to school after the winter break for the spring semester.

  • Spring Semester 

Typical span:

Mid-January to late May

Typical finals week:

Mid- to late May

Holidays you could expect:

New Year’s (January 1, 2024)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 15, 2024)

Presidents’ Day (February 19, 2024)

Spring break (March or April)

Memorial Day (May 27, 2024)

Approximate start date:

For the academic year 2023-24, you can expect the spring semester to start around January 11, 2023.* 

  • Summer Break 

Summer break typically starts in late May and can extend up to September. Some students opt to take up additional classes or internships during this period before the academic year ends.

*These dates obviously vary with each college and program, so use them only as rough estimates. If you’re seeking accurate information about a specific college or program, refer to the official website of the college you’re interested in. Use our free match tool to find the college you’re suited for and get access to information about their start dates.

Quarter Calendar System

In the quarter system, the academic year is divided into four terms: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Each term lasts around 10 weeks, with one often being optional (usually Summer, although some colleges allow students to choose their quarters).

In the quarter system, the academic calendar is likely to follow this timeline:

Typical fall quarter span: 

Mid-September to December

Typical winter quarter span: 

Early January to late March/early April

Typical spring quarter span: 

Mid-April to early June

Typical summer quarter span: 

Late June to late August

Trimester Calendar System

Some colleges follow a trimester system with a third term in the summer or winter. Under the trimester system, the academic year can either have 3 terms of equal duration or 2 longer terms with a third shorter term that can last for 3, 5, or even up to 12 weeks.

Block Calendar System

The block system divides the academic year into shorter blocks or modules, each usually lasting 3-4 weeks, with eight blocks in total. Each block focuses on one or a few specific courses, allowing students to fully immerse themselves in the subject matter before moving on to the next block. This condensed format often involves more intensive coursework with longer class durations.

4-1-4 Calendar System

The 4-1-4 college calendar system is a unique academic schedule used by a few colleges and universities. It consists of three main terms: a fall semester, a short January term (often called ‘J-Term’), and a spring semester. The fall and spring semesters follow the traditional format, lasting approximately 14 weeks each. The January term, however, is a condensed period typically lasting around 4 weeks. During this time, students have the opportunity to explore a single course in-depth, engage in specialized studies, or participate in experiential learning opportunities.

Labor DayMondaySeptember 4, 2023
Columbus DayMondayOctober 9, 2023
Veterans’ DayFridaySaturdayNovember 10, 2023November 11, 2023
Thanksgiving Thursday FridayNovember 23, 2023 November 24, 2023
ChristmasMondayTuesdayDecember 25, 2023December 26, 2023
New Year’sMondayJanuary 1, 2024
Martin Luther King, Jr. DayMondayJanuary 15, 2024
Presidents’ DayMondayFebruary 19, 2024
Memorial DayMondayMay 27, 2024
JuneteenthWednesdayJune 19, 2024
Independence DayTuesdayJuly 4, 2024

*Not all colleges follow the same holiday schedules. To find out the specific holidays observed by your college (or the school you’re interested in), consult the college’s website and search for the term “academic calendar.” This will provide you with a comprehensive schedule of holidays and important dates throughout the academic year.

As mentioned earlier, college schedules can vary greatly. Here are a few factors that impact college schedules and, thereby, your start date for 2023-2024:

University policies

Institutions may have different admission policies. Some colleges have rolling admissions, accepting eligible students in any term. ‘Rolling admissions’ means that a college or university reviews applications and releases admission decisions continually, so your start date could virtually be in any month.

Universities may also decide to observe certain events such as the college founder’s day, milestone celebrations, religious occasions, historical events, and more. While this could mean more holidays for you, don’t celebrate just yet. Refer to the academic calendars of the universities you’re interested in to find out the college holidays scheduled for 2023-2024.

Public universities usually observe all federal holidays. Many private universities do follow suit, but some opt to work on federal and other holidays, such as Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, etc. 

Nature of your program 

Specific program requirements can also impact when certain majors or courses begin. Individual course offerings also play a role, as some classes may have limited availability or specific start dates. Colleges may require a certain number of seats to be filled before the course can officially commence. The format of a program (online, offline, hybrid, or accelerated) could also influence the start date and overall schedule.

Differences by state

The Education Departments of each state require all higher educational institutions to have a fixed minimum number of working days or hours. These numbers can vary from state to state. Colleges plan their calendars in accordance with this mandate. Colder states tend to have “snow make-up” days to compensate for days of study lost due to heavy snowfall. Certain states have additional holidays to commemorate important events relating to the state’s history.

Another factor to consider is the possibility of joining after the first semester or quarter ends. Many schools let you begin in the fall, spring, or summer semesters, and online schools often have as many as 8 possible start dates per year, meaning you could enroll in almost any month. For instance, if you missed the start date for the fall semester, some colleges will allow you to start your program in the spring semester. Certain accelerated programs may also start in later semesters.  

To ensure accuracy and up-to-date information, you should consult your college’s official website, registrar’s office, or academic advisors. These sources will provide you with the most reliable details regarding college start dates, enabling you to make informed decisions and effectively manage your academic schedule.

Planning ahead can lead to a successful academic semester in college. Consider implementing these few useful strategies to set yourself up for a great semester:

  • Create a schedule

Start by creating a personal schedule that outlines your classes, study time, and extracurricular commitments. There are many free online college class schedule-maker tools that can help you do this:

  • Organize your space

Organize your study materials and create a productive study environment that supports your learning style. So channel your inner Marie Kondo and make your results spark joy. 

  • Network

It’s equally important to establish a support network of peers and mentors who can assist you throughout the semester. College shouldn’t be a journey you take alone. “Maybe the real treasure is the friends you make along the way.”

  • Set goals

Setting clear academic goals will provide you with a sense of direction and motivation. 

Manage your time effectively by prioritizing tasks and avoiding procrastination. By proactively planning ahead, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle challenges and achieve academic success in the upcoming semester.

So the short answer to “When does college start in 2023?” is…it largely depends on your college. That being said, your college start date is highly likely to be in the month of August if you enroll in the fall semester at a college that follows the semester system.

Colleges may follow different calendar systems like the semester system, quarter system, trimester system, block system, and 4-1-4 system. Other factors, such as the nature of your chosen program, its format (online/on-campus/accelerated), state decisions, and university policies, could also affect when college starts for you in 2023.

Knowing your exact start dates and schedule can make a difference and help you get the best college experience.

When do colleges usually start?

Colleges in the US usually start with the fall term in the month of August, although some start in September. This can differ based on the academic calendar and admission policy followed by the university you choose. Many colleges allow students to join during later terms. Specific courses may also have different start dates. Consider visiting the official websites of the colleges you’re interested in to get accurate information about course start dates.

How long is a college semester?

On average, a college semester ranges between 12 to 16 weeks. Some semesters may be shorter, however, depending on factors like the college start date, the calendar system being followed, and the nature of the program.

How many semesters in a year will I have in college?

The number of semesters you’ll have per year in college can vary:

  • Under the semester system, you can expect 2 main semesters in college.
  • If your college follows the trimester or 4-1-4 system, then you can expect 3 semesters.
  • If your college follows the quarter system, you are likely to have four shorter quarters instead of longer semesters.

When does spring semester start for college in 2023?

For the academic year 2023-2024, the spring semester is likely to start by mid-January 2024. The spring semester start date varies by college and program. Some colleges may start as late as February 2024.

When will college start in 2024?

If you want to return to college for the 2023-2024 spring semester, then that is likely to start by mid-January, 2024. If you want to start college in the next academic year, 2024-2025, then colleges usually start with the fall semester in August.

Are colleges closed on Presidents’ Day?

The short answer: most colleges are closed on Presidents’ Day–but not all of them. Presidents’ Day, February 19, 2024, is a federal holiday. So most public schools remain closed, but private institutions are not mandated to follow suit and may schedule classes on the day. Refer to the official academic calendar of the college you wish to enroll in for accurate information on the college holidays you can expect in 2024.

When does college football start?

The 2023 college football season will officially start on Saturday, August 26, 2023.

The 2023 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) season marks the 154th edition of college football in the US, the highest level of competition in college football overseen by the NCAA.

When does college basketball start?

The 2023–24 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s college basketball season is scheduled to start on November 6, 2023. The regular season is expected to end by March 17, 2024.

After that, the 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s basketball tournament is expected to commence from March 19, 2024, and end with the championship game on April 8, 2024.