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January Feature: What's the 1 In a 4-1-4 Academic Calendar?

Wed, Jan 21, 2015 @ 10:35 AM

Fotolia 68313283 Subscription Monthly M copy resized 600These Month-Long January Term Classes Offer Unique Learning Opportunities for Students

At IvyWise we like to highlight colleges, programs, and facets of college life that many students may not be aware of. Each month, we will highlight a unique aspect of a school, program, or event in an effort to help students learn more about the variety of institutions in the US – and the many different ways they can get a best-fit education.  

As January comes to a close, many students are returning back to campus to start the spring semester. At some colleges, however, many students have spent the month hard at work, learning in a January term course.

These typically 4-week classes are known by a variety of names from college to college—and offer many different learning experiences for students! While students at many universities are enjoying a well-deserved winter break, their peers at other institutions may spend this month traveling abroad, pursuing an internship, or taking an off-the-beaten path class. 

While researching colleges for your balanced college list, you may find that a variety of schools across the country, including Eckerd College, Elon University, Middlebury College, MIT, and Williams College, to name a few, run on a 4-1-4 calendar. A 4-1-4 calendar typically includes two four month-long semesters, with a month-long mini-session in between. At many colleges, this means that students are enrolled in courses in the fall and spring semesters, but spend January pursuing one specific class or opportunity.

Whether a school refers to the period as JanPlan, Winter Term, or Winter Study, the setup allows for an educational but restful break during which students can build new skills. Students are not always required to participate all four years, but with so many offerings, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of this type of program?  

Feel like exploring your artsy side? This year, Elon and Colby both offer trips to the Sundance film festival. Looking to study abroad? Eckerd has an extensive list of programs that take place inside and outside the US, in cities ranging from London to Roatán, Honduras.    

Interested in learning about an entirely new concept? Williams offers classes such as “New Orleans-Style Jazz and Street Performance” and “The Mathematics of LEGO Bricks.”  

If you’re reluctant to commit to an entire semester abroad but are still eager to travel, January could be an ideal time to do so. Whether they’re spending time on campus or in an entirely new location, students at schools with January terms can choose among tons of month-long opportunities.  

Grading policies vary from school to school—Williams, for example, grades January courses on a pass/fail basis, while other schools issue a letter grade that is factored into one’s overall GPA. While classes are condensed into solely a month, the January setup means that students aren’t juggling work for multiple classes as they would during the normal semester.  

Next time you’re looking at a potential college, it’s definitely worth investigating whether they offer a January term. If there is one, take a look at the offerings available—you never know what you might find!  

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