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All About the Block Plan from a Colorado College Student

A young woman climbing through bright orange rocks.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

“Why are you out hiking on a Thursday? Are you even in college?” 

“You are a true CC student if you can explain the block plan during a chairlift ride.”

“I live for block break.”   

The Block Plan Explained

You may be wondering, what is the block plan? There are only two universities in the United States that use this academic semester system.

Colorado College is one of them. Colorado College (commonly referred to as CC) is a small liberal arts school based in Colorado Springs, CO at the foot of Pikes Peak, “America’s Mountain.” CC has used the block plan for over 50 years now. A skyline with a clear blue sky and grey mountains.

At its core, the block plan allows students to take one class at a time, totaling four classes per semester. Each class is 3.5 weeks, or 18 days, long with a “block break” from the last Wednesday through Sunday.

Finals week occurs during the “fourth week” of every block, but students are rewarded with a break once it is over. Fourth week is colloquially referred to and referenced by all students as a half-week of chaos and testing, while simultaneously getting ready for a trip over block break. 

CC also offers three blocks over the summer that are both on campus or abroad. Many of my friends who are athletes or have a strict major have traveled abroad during the summer in lieu of a full semester abroad.

There are also options in January to take half-block courses that are designed to be boot camp style on anything from Wall Street prep to a deep dive into conspiracy theories.

Along with normal classes, there are adjuncts offered in the afternoon allowing language students to keep up their skills, and dancers and artists to explore their creativity. These adjunct courses still count for credit and are often taken once per week throughout the entire semester. 

Block Friends… and Block Crushes 

The block plan is an exciting way to meet tons of new people, especially when you are taking classes in different departments. Students spend 3.5 weeks altogether focusing on one subject which brings classes close.

Some classes even go on overnight field trips together, allowing students to create memories together outside of the classroom. After spending that much time with people in your class, the block comes to an end and you may never see some of your classmates again.

Or… you might if you are interested in them! “Block crushes” are common among students because you have one month in class to shoot your shot and see if things work out. If they don’t worry, the class will be over soon anyway, but if they do…lucky you!  

Why You Should Study Abroad In College

Block Breaks

Colorado College is based in Colorado Springs, CO, which is a launchpad for so many unique adventures in the southwest United States. Personally, I have gotten to explore parts of New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and of course, Colorado through block breaks.A young woman sitting on the ground of a desert eating. Campers are parked behind her.

Before coming to CC and being from Chicago, I was intimidated by the idea of camping or backpacking, but there are many opportunities to try new activities through Outdoor Education and even friends who will take you along with them.

There are many talented students that are willing to share their knowledge with each other. I have enjoyed anything from hiking and backpacking during the fall and spring to skiing and snowboarding during the winter. 

If you are coordinated enough, you could even plan a weekend at home or go visit friends at other universities. There is an airport right in Colorado Springs. or one an extra hour up in Denver. 

There are also many students who choose to hang out in Colorado Springs or just do a few day trips. Block break planning can be both stressful and expensive, especially after grinding out an entire class in 3.5 weeks.

There is so much gorgeous hiking, delicious restaurants, and local spots to explore here in Colorado Springs. Sleeping and catching up on life outside of the block plan is needed, too! 

Off-Campus Blocks and Field Trips 

The Block Plan often provides students with unique opportunities to take class field trips or relocate entirely for the month. Many of my friends have traveled to Europe to take language or culture classes.

They have also been able to go up to a museum in Denver for an afternoon or spend a few days in Colorado and New Mexico. 

A young woman holding a newspaper in front of a sign that says "The Mountain Mail"As a Film and Media Studies major with minors in Journalism and Spanish, I have been able to explore a wide array of departments and courses at CC. I have been fortunate to take classes that have allowed me to explore places across the country. 

Last fall, my class took a field trip to Telluride to attend a film festival there for 4 days. It quickly became one of my favorite places in Colorado.

We all stayed in two homes together with our professor and paraprofessional. Each day we attended different screenings at the festival and met with the directors, which were great creative networking opportunities. 

In January, I lived in Brooklyn, NY taking a film course creating conversations around masculinity in the film and media industry. Each day we had lectures for two hours in the afternoon but were encouraged to explore the city before and after.

There were class outings to dinners together, a comedy club, and even a Broadway show. It gave me the opportunity to “live” and form friendships in an entirely new city that I do not go to college in. 

I am currently living and working in Crestone, Colorado at the CC Baca Campus. It is a small development in the Baca Grande community, just outside of Crestone, where there are lodges, townhomes, a library, and a conference center.A black and white photo of a mountain with clouds over top.

Many classes come here for a weekend to do field research or to spend time reflecting at the foot of the towering Sangre de Cristo mountains. I have been working for the Crestone Eagle, Crestone’s local newspaper, doing an “Independent Study” for my Journalism minor. I get professional journalist experience and even got published in their October edition. 

Overall

I would not have been able to take off and try something new at any other semester program. Don’t be fooled by all of the fun, the Block Plan is still very demanding of students.

From expedited timelines to writing papers for afternoon labs on top of morning class, it is no easy feat, but it really is something that distinguishes CC from many other universities, and for good reason. 

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Author: Katherine Beard

An outgoing and adventurous junior at Colorado College majoring in Film and Media Studies with minors in Spanish and Journalism.