Two weeks off, since 1867

Within the Ivy League, Yale is the object of envy when it comes to spring break.

While the seven other Ivies break for anywhere from five to eight class days in the spring, Yale is the only Ivy that takes off 10 class days — a full two weeks overall. Yale’s two-week spring break was first introduced in 1867, according to University records from the era, and University administrators said it is here to stay.

Today, the extended break gives students one week of vacation time and one week to catch up on work, said University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer, who appoints and sits on Yale’s calendar committee. She added that many students and faculty have told her that they prefer this calendar arrangement to that of other colleges and universities.

“In all my time here, there has never been any proposal to change the vacation from two weeks to one week,” Lorimer said.

The earliest recorded spring break in the Catalogue of the Officers and Students in Yale College (a predecessor to Yale’s Blue Book) was in 1822, when students were granted four weeks off in May after completing their spring term and before resuming class in June. The four-week spring breaks continued until the 1850s, when administrators reduced spring break to three weeks. The catalog “earnestly advised” parents not to allow their sons to remain at school during the recess.

The two-week spring break was introduced in 1867, according to the Catalogue. During the 1910s and 1920s, spring break — then called Easter recess — shrank to one week before permanently returning to two weeks in 1933.

While Yale students can now take advantage of the extended vacation to travel greater distances to go home or go on vacation, Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61, the Larned Professor Emeritus of History, said it was too expensive for students to travel overseas before the advent of jet planes in the 1960s, and that the Cold War made travel to China and the Soviet Union impossible.

“The homes of students were much more geographically concentrated,” Smith said of his time as an undergraduate. “New York was where most students were from.”

John Meeske ’74, the associate dean for physical resources and planning and a member of the calendar committee, said taking two weeks instead of one does not impact the cost of maintaining the University. If the calendar committee ever decided to shorten spring break to just one week, he said, summer vacation would just start one week earlier.

Meeske said the process of determining the dates for spring break is “formulaic”: It begins after the bulk of midterm exams, which typically take place after the eighth week of classes. The dates of spring break vary depending on when spring semester starts, he added.

“There is variation from year to year depending when Labor Day falls,” Meeske said. “If we start [fall semester] before Labor Day, we end the term earlier — and we start up earlier in January.”

All of the 20 students interviewed said they prefer two weeks of spring break to the alternative of beginning summer one week earlier, and three of the students said they think summer vacation already has an early start.

Adam Verreault ’12 added that he likes the two-week spring break because it allows for him both to travel and to catch up on homework, something that would be difficult if he had only one week off. Raquel Guarino ’13 agreed.

“After midterms, you really need it,” she said.

Nora Caplan-Bricker contributed reporting.

Correction: March 6, 2010

An earlier version of this article misreported the class year of Raquel Guarino ’13.



    Why don’t we have something like this for fall? Thanksgiving break is much too late in the semester…


    Because then you’d be starting school earlier in August and getting out later in December.

  • fine

    Take out the week long Thanksgiving break and if we’d have to come a week earlier then fine, it’d be nice to get a break after midterms in the fall.

  • old blue

    It would be helpful if the article listed the dates of this year’s break, for comparison’s sake…

  • yeah

    Our spring schedule is wonderful because of the two weeks off. But like the other commenters, I also agree that our fall schedule is horrible. It goes non-stop all the way until Thanksgiving, which is much too long to go without a break. We really need a break after fall midterms. The week for Thanksgiving is useless – it’s too late in the semester. Most of us don’t need that long to travel to visit our families for thanksgiving, and whether we see our families or not we just have to study the whole time anyways because it’s so close to finals. And then we end our finals barely before Christmas. All in all, fall semester sucks. Just give us a week after midterms and start two weeks earlier in August.

  • Y’13

    I completely agree that Fall Semester sucks. But honestly, getting a fall break AND thanksgiving off would be very hard on those that live far from New Haven. People would have to go home for a week (most likely) for break, then come back and have to go back home for like 2 or 3 days for Thanksgiving. That would suck.

  • ’09

    “The two-week spring break was introduced in 1867, according to the Catalogue. During the 1910s and 1920s, spring break — then called Easter recess — shrank to one week before permanently returning to two weeks in 1933.”

    To be totally picky, you YDN headline writers need to check the meaning of the word “since.” I feel cheated! Two decades without a two-week spring break means that one has only existed since 1933.

  • ’13

    Believe it or not, #5, plenty of Yalies don’t come from the East Coast–we NEED the long Thanksgiving break to go home and visit our families.

  • @Y’13

    Or, you know, they could stay on campus if it’d be more convenient for them.

  • JD

    Of course lots of students don’t come from the east coast. I don’t either. Even if you live on the west coast, having a 4-5 day weekend should be sufficient to travel home for Thanksgiving. Besides, do you really need to travel home for Thanksgiving? Sure, family and thanksgiving are great, but is it really worth messing up the rest of the semester for? Not in my opinion. I’m gonna see my family like 3-4 weeks later for Christmas anyways. To me, it’s redundant to travel twice.

  • @JD

    That’s because you’re from the west coast, where they don’t value morals or family or tradition. Thanksgiving is very important for a lot of people.

  • JD, @11

    Nope, not from the west coast, I’m from the Midwest.

    I’m just saying… 4 or 5 days off should be sufficient for those who really value Thanksgiving to travel anywhere in the country for it. Is having a leisurely entire week to travel home really important enough to you that it is worth making the rest of the semester the absolute misery that it is?

  • Undergrad

    I don’t see why we can’t keep our week off for Thanksgiving (for “vacation time”) AND have an additional week off in the fall after midterms to catch up on work. We could end the summer a week earlier and have a “fall recess” in October, after 8 weeks of classees. Since most students would already be going home for thanksgiving, they would probably stay on campus during this time and use it to catch up on work.

  • Ryan


    Great idea about a week after thanksgiving and a week after midterms. I certainly would be happy to end summer a week earlier to have this.

    That said, I think the week would be better spent traveling with classmates or recovering from midterms than ‘catching up on work’ as you say 😉

  • Another Proposal

    Or Yale can just start on a Monday in the fall (like any other school) and give us two days off in October. That way we don’t start earlier and don’t end earlier.

  • Y 06

    NEVER CHANGE IT. Spring break was AMAZING in college.