A picture of Yale University in the snow in an article about going on a J-Term

Why You Should Attend a College With a J-Term

It may seem a little weird but it’s so much more than an open month in the middle of the year.
March 18, 2020
8 mins read

J-Term, or January Term, is one of those weird words you hear on a college tour and have no idea what it means. You stand there and stare blankly at your tour guide, racking your brain for any possible definition, and come up with nothing. Then you realize you actually need to ask your guide what a J-Term is, feeling slightly stupid for not knowing this uncommon phrase that no one outside of a particular college would know about. Well, let me save you the trouble. A J-Term is when the month of January is set aside as a separate “term” (outside of the normal semester system), where you can take a class or take advantage of other opportunities that wouldn’t normally be available to you. While this extra month can make your school year a few weeks longer than at another school, it’s totally worth it. Here are the top four reasons why you should attend a college with a J-Term.

1. You’ll have more time than ever before

While J-Term is set up differently at each school, one thing that you can be sure of is having more time than in a normal semester. Since you generally only take one course during a J-Term instead of the normal four or five, you have time to do so many other things. You could work more, hang out with friends more often or invest time in your hobbies, just to name a few options. It’s all up to you and how you want to spend your time because the requirements in your day are so much lower than normal, which gives you the mental space to do fun things.

One thing students really love to do at my school is a tradition called traying. This is when we take cafeteria trays and sled down the hill that our campus is set on. I also spent my first J-Term getting really close to two of my friends, one of whom is now my roommate. We would work out and eat together every day and lie down in a random room on campus to talk about life. Without the opportunity of a J-Term, I’m not sure I would have made those connections with these two friends of mine or made so many fun memories.

2. It’s a really unique experience

J-Term is a really unique experience because, let’s face it, you’ve probably never heard of it. Even if you have, most people haven’t toured a school with a J-Term option; in my home state of Minnesota, there’s only a handful of colleges that offer the opportunity, since most state schools don’t have the schedule to accommodate it. This means that the majority of students in my state (and probably yours) aren’t going to be participating in a J-Term, making it much more rare than most other college experiences.

3. Opportunities are everywhere (#resumebooster)

Not only is J-Term unique in that it’s an uncommon experience but it also offers so many more opportunities than a normal semester. You have more time to work at a part-time job if that’s your thing or you can take on other opportunities that would make your college experience more well-rounded. This could include getting involved in a campus organization that offers special J-Term openings, taking up a short internship or even embarking on a short study abroad trip (which is what I did).

All of these options can be really beneficial, especially if you don’t want to commit to a longer time period because, let’s be honest, who wants to do a full-time internship in a field they’re not sure they want to be in? Or spend four months away in a new country when they get homesick easily? By choosing to attend a college with a J-Term, you’re not only signing up for a period that demands less of you but you’re getting the opportunity to expand your horizons in so many different ways, many of which could be useful in a resume or future job interview.

4. It’s one big reset button

Anyone who’s attended college knows that fall semester wipes you out harder than a full sprint marathon, battering you up so hard you think you’re dead by the time you crawl across the finish line. You’re so relieved to get to winter break that you don’t even think about spring semester until it’s the day before classes start and you haven’t bought your textbooks yet.

This is when it really hits you. Fall semester was round one in the boxing ring, and you just entered round two with barely a water break. Winter break didn’t prepare you to take on a whole other round of classes, stress and drama. All it did was give you enough time to have your family drag you over not having a significant other and gain five pounds from all the holiday cookies you ate.

It’s no wonder why, then, that spring semester hits you harder than a freight train, dragging you into a new 4-month marathon. Welcome to college. However, all of this could be different if you attended a college with a J-Term. J-Term is an entire month on top of your few weeks of winter break where your responsibilities are down to a minimum. You have more time than normal so you can actually hang out with your friends, catch up on sleep and fully reset for spring semester. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Whether you’re looking at schools that have a J-Term option or not, this random month in the middle of the year could be a really fun opportunity to do something different and make the most of your college experience. If nothing else, you get to sleep a little more and I’ll never turn that down.

Kali Johnson, Gustavus Adolphus College

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Kali Johnson

Gustavus Adolphus College
Exercise Physiology

My name is Kali and I’m from White Bear Lake, MN. I attend Gustavus Adolphus College as an exercise physiology major and I work part-time as a gymnastics coach.

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