What is a J-Term

  • J-Term is a period in January where students can take courses for credit, study abroad, participate in internships, or take a break.
  • This unique term offers students unique classes like painting and mountain climbing, as well as traditional subjects like animal behavior and history.
  • Some schools that offer J-Term include Oberlin College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Delaware.

Have you ever heard of “J-Term?” before? Many students and their parents haven’t, and some only learn of it during college orientation. But here’s what you need to know about J-Term and how you can take advantage of this opportunity.


Students enjoying snow at UVA Charlottesville during J-term

What is J-Term?

 J-Term, also known as January Term, Winter J Term, Winter Term, or Winter Semester, is a 2-week to a month period in January where you can take a course for credit. Most spring and fall semester courses take around 16 weeks to complete, but J-Term classes can generally take only 10-14 days. The actual length of the class varies from school to school, and not even all colleges offer this term.  If they’re available, they tend to be either at the beginning of January or the middle of the month, prior to the start of the spring semester.

What Classes Are Available?

If your college offers a J-Term, the classes available will likely be quite different from one school to the next! Some of the courses available provide students the opportunity to take some different classes outside the realm of their normal major or minor.

You could opt for a “beginner course” on a topic you’re interested in. And there may be more intensive classes that allow a student to tackle a major-related topic and really focus only on that subject.

Classes can really range from history to accounting to painting to animal science! Some colleges even have courses on mountain climbing, specific authors and their works, upcycling, and regional theater. J-Term allows colleges and professors to offer quick courses on really niche topics, so there’s no end to the unusual and fun possibilities this term can offer students.

What Are the Benefits of Taking a J-Term?

There are a few benefits to note when it comes to going to a college or university that offers J-Term.

You Have an Opportunity to Study Abroad

Some schools, in addition to offering the January Term, also offer the ability to study abroad during this period. This works particularly well for students who may want to study abroad but don’t have many options due to their major. They can go out of the country for a few weeks, study, and get credits for their college requirements. Plus, you get a whole new experience, maybe out of your comfort zone! How fun is that?

You Can Take Some Time Off

Some people use their J-Term as an opportunity to take a much-needed break from school. Afterall, you worked really hard last fall semester! Some stay home for that extra month to be with family and friends longer. Others take the J-Term off and use it as an opportunity to earn some extra income to help pay for college and cost of living.

Regardless of the reason you might want or need the break, it offers an opportunity to take some brief time away from school without having to worry about delaying your graduation.

You May Be Able to Graduate Earlier

One of the biggest benefits of the Winter Term is the potential to graduate a bit earlier. By taking a J-Term class, you can earn credits toward graduation. And if you opt to utilize your J-Term for credits each year, they sure add up!

This is especially the case if you opt for some courses required for your major or if you want to add a minor. You could graduate a semester earlier or take fewer classes in your final semesters.

You Can Gain Internship Experience

For students who have all the credits they need to graduate and want to get some real-world work experience, this is a great time to take on an internship. Maybe you are trying to decide what career field you want to go into. What better way to experience it than getting in and doing the job?

READ MORE >> 16 Great Internships for Students

A lot of companies have internship programs (some paid, some unpaid) that provide great guidance and advice for students. An added bonus: most colleges give you college credit for completing internships as long as you provide their required documentation.

You Can Learn About Something Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Has there been a topic or skill you’ve always wanted to learn about, but simply don’t have the time in your normal schedule? Or are you not sure if you’re interested in a subject or major and just want to test the waters?

Whether you’re interested in history or learning pottery, the J-term gives you the perfect opportunity to do that without spending too much time out of your fall or spring semesters. You can dip your toe into the subject and find out if it’s for you.

What Schools Offer J-Term?

There are dozens of colleges and universities in the United States that offer J-term – too many to list here! You should always check with your school to see if they offer January classes as they might not always be heavily advertised. But some colleges (yes, some are Top Colleges and Hidden Gems) that offer J-term include:

J-Term can bring about several benefits and be a great way of rounding out your education! If your school offers this unique opportunity, be sure to check out all the available classes as you might just find some ones you hadn’t expected!

If J-Term sounds awesome to you, make sure to check out our college match tool to see which colleges offer this unique college experience.