The academic year will be slightly different for each university/college but will normally run from early September to the end of May.
It may be divided into two terms of eighteen weeks called ‘semesters’, or the university may have ‘quarters’ or ‘trimesters’ which are about twelve weeks in length. Additionally, universities often provide six to eight-week summer terms, but these are optional - many students attend if they wish to decrease their course load during the regular terms, or simply make up for lost ground.
There are at least two main holidays during the academic year: a two to four-week break over Christmas and a one-week Spring Break somewhere between early March and mid-April.
English students should, however, beware...
America has no trace of the three-long-holidays-a-year system that so many British schools enjoy. The Christmas break is fairly short and Easter does not exist.
The one-week Spring Break, which college students treat as a big excuse for drunkenness and debauchery, can leave you more exhausted than relaxed, and the haul from January to May is a long one.
American summer holidays are huge, but most of your contemporaries will be using them for work experience. Relaxation does not figure largely in the American calendar – occasional breaks for President’s Day or Thanksgiving are the most time off you can really expect during the academic term – something to bear in mind if you are someone who enjoys their leisure time.