What is January Term?

Taking a full course load in college often means taking 12 credits or more of classes in both the fall and spring semester, but students who want to take a break and still earn academic credit can enroll in the January term.

Though not offered by all colleges, this term occurs in the early weeks of January and allows students to earn course credit for an accelerated class they take. Also known as a J-Term, it’s a way for students to focus on interests they have outside their major fields of study.

J-Term Basics

Colleges that use a credit hour system have two full semesters available each year. The fall semester usually runs from the end of August through the middle of December, and the spring semester starts in January and lasts until May. Colleges may also offer eight-week sessions in the summer too. The J-Term usually starts at the beginning of January, which is when kids come back from winter break, and lasts for just two weeks. The accelerated classes available during this session allows students to earn several credits they can use for their minors or as an elective.

On-Campus or Online?

One of the best things about the J-Term is that colleges let students choose between taking these classes on-campus or online. Those who take an online class have the option of extending their winter breaks. Instead of moving back to campus right after New Year’s Day, they can complete this term at home and come back to campus a few weeks later. Students with off-campus jobs and those who participate in campus clubs may want to come back earlier and complete the J-Term on-campus to spend more time earning money and hanging out with their friends. Students can also complete the J-Term abroad.

Classes Available

Classes available during the January term cover everything from psychology and sociology to engineering and criminal justice. Many colleges also offer study-abroad experiences.

It’s a great way for students to complete some of the requirements of their college programs and to ensure that they take the minimum number of courses needed for graduation. Colleges may offer introductory courses during this session like introduction to criminal justice or introduction to computer science. Many courses help students fulfill their elective requirements and may include fun classes like acting for beginners, basket weaving, life drawing and game design.

Benefits of the Term

Alana Patrick, a writer for The Huffington Post who attended a J-Term, states that one clear benefit of this term is that it reduces the number of longer classes students must take. Students can get the same number of credits they would for a full semester long class in just two weeks. Patrick also points out that these programs allow students to get away from campus for an extended period and take classes in a foreign country as part of a study abroad program. Many students also like that the J-Term lets them take classes that are more fun or more interesting than the classes they must take for their majors.

The traditional college calendar includes a fall and spring semester, but many colleges now offer a J-Term that falls in the middle of those two semesters. Though the January term may last for just two weeks, it provides students with the chance to earn credit and study a topic that interests them.