W ith only three days between University of Colorado final exams and Christmas Day, many University of Colorado students switched a hectic gear from school to shopping.

The last day of finals was Friday, which is later than usual for CU due to a leap-year calendar shift, which left only the past weekend and Christmas Eve for students to focus on the holidays.

After gaining an extra week of winter break last year due to the same shift, students said this year feels extra busy.

"I'm definitely waiting until the last minute to buy gifts this year," said CU junior Alexa Mersman. "I've been focused on school and finals, so now I'm going to have to spend most of Friday and some of the weekend shopping."

Bill Kaempfer, vice provost and associate vice chancellor at CU, said even though the semester was the typical 17-week duration, finals did end on a later date this fall -- due to a later start date of Aug. 27. Last year finals ended on Dec. 15, leaving students 10 days before Christmas to get home and shop, he said.

"The basic calendar issue is that since there are 365 days per year, and 366 in this leap year, that makes for 52 weeks, plus one day," Kaempfer said. "That extra day means that each year the calendar rotates up one day. After five or six years, we have enough extra days to give us an extra week off. That happened last winter, and now we are back to a late end of the year."

Mersman said she only has a two-hour drive to Colorado Springs to get home, so travel isn't going to reduce her shopping time by much, but other students aren't so lucky.

CU sophomore Hans Heidmann said he barely had enough time to pack for his flight home to San Diego, so Christmas shopping is going to be a challenge.

"I honestly don't know when I'll have time to get it done," Heidmann said. "After I fly home, I won't have much time to shop before I have to leave again for our family trip to Canada."

While some students scrambled to find the time to finish their shopping, others planned ahead for the hectic holidays.

CU sophomore Frances Galin said she did her Christmas shopping online and had the gifts delivered home, so she didn't have to worry about shopping during finals.

Galin said she's glad she planned ahead, but she wasn't completely stress-free after finals.

"I only have one day to pack before I have to go home and I have to work that day too so it's still going to be busy," Galin said.

Kaempfer said he doesn't purposely arrange the calendar to make it challenging for students, it's just the way the dates fall.

"Every 5 or 6 years we have fall semester end on the 21st or even 22nd of December and everybody thinks I'm the Grinch who stole most of Christmas break," Kaempfer said.

Follow Whitney Bryen on Twitter: @SoonerReporter.

Spring semester dates

Housing move-in: Jan. 9

First day of classes: Jan. 14

For more: colorado.edu/academics/academic-calendar