Northeastern CPS academic calendar explained

Northeastern University organizes its academic calendar into quarters and sessions, rather than the more customary approach of two semesters and a summer. This and other idiosyncrasies can make it hard for first-time students to figure out what class they want to register for, or how to use Northeastern classes to fulfill requirements expressed in number of semesters.

First, credits. Northeastern awards credits in terms of quarter-hours, whereas most prerequisites for graduate programs are expressed in terms of semester-hours. The conversion is straightforward: three quarter-hours equal two semester-hours (because taking an hour-long class over nine months for three quarters is the same as taking a one-hour class over nine months for two semesters).

Typically, a one-semester prerequisite means four semester-hour credits are required, which is six quarter-hours; two-semester prerequisite is for eight semester-hour credits, which is twelve quarter-hours. Since most classes at Northeastern carry either three or four quarter-hours, your options are:

  • If you have a single-semester — four-credit — prerequisite, you can fulfill it at Northeastern with two classes of three quarter-hours each. Notably, lecture component of lab classes typically carries three quarter-hour credits. If you need a single semester, without the lab, of a class that is typically offered as a two-semester sequence with a lab, then you can take two sessions of a Northeastern’s three-session sequence, and only register for the lectures. This gives you the six quarter-hours (four semester-hours) that you need; it also usually covers more material than taking a single semester of the same class with lab, and you get to skip the unnecessary lab.

  • If you have a two-semester — eight-credit — prerequisite, you can fulfill it at Northeastern with a three-session sequence of four quarter-hours each; this gives you twelve quarter-hours (eight semester-hours). Science sequences are typically available in this format; you will need to register for the lecture and the lab to get the full four quarter-hours of credit.

Second, the scheduling. The academic calendar at Northeastern is divided into four quarters (aka terms), which are approximately lined up with the four seasons.

The calendar of classes is divided into sessions. Each session corresponds to a block on the calendar. Beginnings and ends of sessions are lined up with beginnings, midpoints, and ends of quarters.1 For example: the session named Spring First Science Sequence runs from the middle of the spring quarter until the end of the spring quarter.

When registering for a class you need to know which session you are registering for. This is how sessions correspond to months:

  1. There is actually another session, not shown here, that runs from the beginning of July into the middle of August — making it the only session in the entire academic calendar that spans three quarters of a quarter, but it only contains graduate-level management and leadership classes, so you probably don’t care.

Month Quarter Sessions
September Fall Fall full session First fall half-session
Second fall half-session
January Winter Winter full session First winter half-session
Second winter half-session
April Spring Spring full session First spring half-session
Second spring half-session
First summer science session
July Summer Summer full session First summer half-session
Second summer science session
August Second summer half-session
Third summer science session
Northeastern CPS calendar with its many sessions

As you can see from this handy chart, different sessions sometimes overlap. When looking for classes in a particular time period, make sure that you check in all the sessions that are running in that time period.

The complexity of Northeastern CPS academic calendar is a consequence of its greater flexibility; I hope this helps you navigate it.