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VP candidates want to change the academic calendar. Here are the facts.

Vice presidential candidate in front of Princeton shielded podium. U.S. flag behind him.

Warren Shepherd ’27 at USG vice presidential debate on Nov. 28.

Rohit Narayanan / The Daily Princetonian

The final exam schedule was a topic of debate among this year’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) vice presidential candidates. Warren Shepherd ’27 embraced “expanding student benefits,” including a critique of the academic calendar. Flyers found around campus sponsored by Shepherd read, “December 22 is too late. Shift the academic year a week earlier.”

Agreeing with Shepherd, candidate Chase Magnano ’25 argued at the debate that Princeton should move the academic calendar one week earlier. Shepherd highlighted the fact that students may be caught in transit near Christmas, citing the case of last year where, due to a snow storm, some students were caught in the airport.


Magnano noted that “flights will sometimes double or triple in price” during the holiday travel rush, while Srista Tripathi ’25 highlighted proposals she made as Academics Committee chair, such as making the final exam schedule available earlier so international students or students who fly home have more time to book tickets in advance. In the proposed model, students will be able to see final assessment dates when selecting courses, allowing students to better structure their final assessment schedule and plan their travel plans earlier in the semester.

In the wake of the debate, The Daily Princetonian broke down the aspects of the academic calendar, which does end later than any other Ivy League school.

Proposed changes to the academic calendar are not unusual to a USG debate — in his successful campaign for USG President last year, Stephen Daniels ’24 said he was open to a conversation about adding a week to the semester so students could not have classes during midterms.

The current academic calendar is relatively recent. Before the 2020–2021 academic year, Princeton held fall semester finals after a short winter break ended. Moving finals to before winter break in 2020 meant, in the University’s words, “a new space in January for different types of campus engagement and the first University-wide Wintersession was launched in January of 2021.”

Exams do seem to be getting later in the period. For the past two fall semesters, Princeton final exams have been scheduled to begin on the third Saturday of December and conclude the following Friday. There are 32 more final exams in Fall 2023 than Fall 2022 and, on average, they are administered later in the exam window. 


On Magnano’s campaigning Instagram page, he outlines four ideas included in his platform, the second on the list being “adjusting the fall schedule so finals are earlier.” Magnano said on Instagram, “It is unreasonable to burden us and our families with outrageously priced plane or train tickets because the semester cannot start 1 week earlier.”

At the vice presidential debate on Nov. 28, Shepherd agreed with Magnano and said, “I came up here as a freshman, I believe it was August 25. And I was up at college about two weeks later than all my counterparts. So I don’t know that this is really an impossible goal.”

Tripathi, the current USG Academics Chair, countered, “Oftentimes the faculty have their reasons for [maintaining the schedule]. If you think about the freshmen that come two to three weeks in advance prior to the school year beginning for orientation period, moving that one week earlier, and accommodating that with a faculty schedule and the staff schedule … seems a little bit unlikely.” 

The ‘Prince’ examined the final exam schedules of Ivy League peer institutions, finding Princeton to be the last in the League to conclude its finals. Dartmouth college is on the quarter-system and finals take place mid-November and were thus not included in this analysis. Harvard and Penn final exams schedules could not be collected.

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All Ivy Leagues except for Princeton and Yale have final exam periods lasting over seven days. Cornell is the only school where no final examinations occur on a date within the final examination period, on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Princeton has the last final exam in 2023 of Ivy League schools but is not last to start its semester. Brown began classes one day after Princeton and Columbia while Harvard began on the same date as Princeton, Sep. 5. Cornell courses began the earliest of any Ivy, on Aug. 21, and Cornell final exams end the earliest, not including Dartmouth.

At the debate, Magnano also compared the University’s final exam schedule to those of peer institutions, noting Princeton’s late start to winter break. Shepherd noted that students may not be the only ones concerned about the late schedule, adding, “I believe many faculty prefer getting on Christmas break earlier as well.”

Andrew Bosworth is an assistant Data editor at the ‘Prince.’

David Shao is a contributing Data writer for the ‘Prince.’

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