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The Reality of an All-Encompassing Holiday Break

Junior+Carter+Smith+considers+whether+or+not+a+longer+winter+break+would+be+fruitful.
Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography
Junior Carter Smith considers whether or not a longer winter break would be fruitful.

The final two and a half weeks of the fall semester are some of the most stressful weeks of the year. As soon as we return from Thanksgiving Break, there are only two weeks of classes left before finals. That is two weeks to wrap up course content, write those final papers and projects and study for final exams. That’s a lot to do in not a lot of time, which understandably causes dramatic increases in both student stress levels and in the daily population of Falvey Library. 

So, what if we just didn’t come back to school after Thanksgiving?

It’s a thought that most recently resurfaced in my mind at the end of Thanksgiving Break, when I was attempting to comprehend the full scale of my workload for the rest of the semester, and I figured it warranted some exploration. 

So, join me on this journey of discovery as I seek to understand what it would take for Villanova to pivot to a single holiday break that encompasses Thanksgiving and the December holidays, as well as why it would actually be a bad idea.

For starters, what am I actually talking about? Final exams conclude this year on Dec. 19 and the spring semester officially begins on Jan. 16, giving students about a month of Winter Break.

The hypothetical all-encompassing holiday break (henceforth referred to as the AEHB) would, in theory, start when Thanksgiving Break does now (the Wednesday before the holiday) and the next semester would begin on the second Monday of January – the eighth. This arrangement would result in winter break being about a week longer than it is currently.

If Villanova were to move to this arrangement, there would be a few scheduling kinks to figure out. Dealing with the second semester would be easy, as we could get back from break a week early so that classes could either end a week earlier in the spring or we could have a two-week long Spring Break.

Rearranging the first semester schedule is trickier. The AEHB would result in the loss of two weeks of class and a week of finals, which would have to be replaced somewhere else. The finals period would be placed right before Thanksgiving and would likely have to be compacted into fewer days. The rest of the semester would have to be moved up by 3 weeks, which would have us starting in the first week of August, or the second week of that month, if we sacrificed our fall break in October. 

The pros and the cons of this plan are quite obvious. 

First, the pros are that students would get to spend more of the holiday season with their families and friends from home and be able to participate in more traditions and gatherings unburdened by the end-of-semester stress. The AEHB would prevent much of the academic whiplash of going from a break to the most stressful weeks of the year back to a break again, allowing us to really enjoy the holiday season. Personally, I would love to not have my holiday spirit burdened by copious amounts of coursework. 

The various cons include the shifting of the fall semester that would have to occur would not be great. I don’t think anybody wants to start school in the beginning of August, because it would still feel too much like summer, and it would conflict with many summer internship tracks. 

The AEHB would also prevent students from being able to celebrate much of the holiday season with their Villanova friends. On-campus organizations and the University have many holiday-themed events during this time, and the longer break wouldn’t allow most students to participate and celebrate together. Finally, the greatest con for most of us would be missing out on the basketball season. While there are a few games before Thanksgiving, a hefty portion of the men’s and women’s basketball schedules occur before the end of the first semester, and many students would hate to miss those games.

While many students would love to get all their work done before the holidays, being able to end the fall semester by Thanksgiving would be next-to-impossible without starting school in the beginning of August or giving up Fall Break. While sitting in Falvey studying or writing papers is not the most enjoyable way to spend the holiday season, it is, unfortunately, the most optimal way to schedule the semester. Despite my propensity to take off instantly after my finals are done, I very much treasure being able to partake in and spread holiday cheer with my friends on campus.

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