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Beyond College Rankings: January Terms, Interim Terms, and 4-1-4 Academic Calendar

Globe with study abroad on it representing 4-1-4 academic calendarsOnce you get past making sure a college has your potential major, there are all kinds of ways of distinguishing colleges from each other besides college rankings. There are the obvious ones such as cost, rural versus urban, size, and location. But there are some that can significantly affect a student’s college experience that many have never heard of, much less considered. One of them is the 4-1-4 academic calendar.

The what calendar?

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Sometimes referred to as a January term, J-Term, or winter term, it is the “1” in the 4-1-4 academic calendar. It is a short-term, usually 4 weeks, that takes place between the fall and spring semester in, you guessed it, January.

What’s interesting about the January term is that it often provides students a chance to take a course they likely wouldn’t have considered otherwise. And since it is only one course, this opens up incredible possibilities.

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Study Abroad

Among the most popular of these courses involve study abroad. It’s a great way for a student to travel abroad without having to commit to an entire semester. And the subjects range from studying art, providing medical services, researching food sustainability, examining local politics or history, and of course, language instruction.

Study abroad for J-terms is so popular that they are offer by most of the Study Abroad organizations. The study abroad options usually involve costs beyond normal tuition. However, many schools offer students grants to make the option affordable. You can see an example of the variety of courses at Linfield Colleges’ January Term Off-Campus Course History.

Domestic Exchange

Students often can take a January term class offer by another college. Many colleges with 4-1-4 academic calendars have exchange agreements where students don’t pay any additional tuition to take an interim course at their campus. Students may still have to pay housing and travel costs. Not only do these exchanges expand the variety of courses available, they also provide excellent opportunities for student to explore and develop contacts in different regions of the country.

Career Development

The career centers at some schools have set up Career Exploration Classes that include working on a resume, job shadowing, or even short internships. In 2018, Linfield College’s program offers career exploration courses on Sports Management and the Wine Industry.

Research Opportunities

January terms offer the chance to study astronomy at an observatory, marine life on the sea-shore, or desert biology in the desert. There are plenty of off-campus possibilities that don’t involve leaving the country.

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On Campus Options

Then there are the on-campus classes that provide the chance to study a subject from a different perspective. Courses have included:

  • “From Metal to Money: Ancient Numismatics” at Williams
  • “Should Cloning and Genetic Engineering be Part of Our Future?” at Elon
  • “Unity 3D Game Design Workshop” at Austin College
  • “Music and Social Justice” at St. Olaf
  • “Star Wars and Theology” at Saint Mary’s

Some schools, including MIT and Williams, offer the classes on a non-credit basis and allow for multiple courses of study. Others require the student to take at least three January term courses before graduation and they are for grade credit.

Some January terms are little more than a way to get in an extra class that you need to get out of the way for graduation. But even these tend to offer students possibilities that wouldn’t be available to them during the regular semester.

A January Term shouldn’t be the only factor to consider when deciding on a college. However, depending on the person, it can be a significant way to distinguish between otherwise similar schools.

The following is a list of schools that have a 4-1-4 calendar according to the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System. This data is also included in the College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet.

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Colleges with 4-1-4 Academic Calendars

Name Type State Full-time Under-grads 4 yr Grad Rate % Admitted Avg Net Price After Gift Aid (2016-2017)
Birmingham Southern College Private AL 1,270 58 62 $23,846
Samford University Private AL 3,272 65 83 $30,017
Chapman University Private CA 6,529 69 57 $40,053
Hope International University Private CA 582 48 28 $25,150
Saint Mary’s College of California Private CA 2,610 65 82 $33,414
University of La Verne Private CA 3,773 52 48 $27,718
University of Redlands Private CA 2,504 71 75 $32,923
University of San Diego Private CA 5,601 69 50 $38,592
Whittier College Private CA 1,647 62 74 $26,764
University of New Haven Private CT 4,851 52 88 $33,665
University of Delaware Public DE 18,170 73 63 $16,286
Eckerd College Private FL 1,915 63 73 $33,918
New College of Florida Public FL 835 57 69 $12,778
LaGrange College Private GA 890 36 57 $19,916
Toccoa Falls College Private GA 875 44 59 $20,396
The College of Idaho Private ID 899 59 76 $22,277
Elmhurst College Private IL 2,731 53 71 $22,685
Greenville College Private IL 887 36 66 $20,707
Illinois Wesleyan University Private IL 1,649 71 61 $30,147
DePauw University Private IN 2,136 76 67 $29,318
Franklin College Private IN 965 56 78 $22,408
Hanover College Private IN 1,078 69 84 $22,455
Huntington University Private IN 861 51 81 $19,219
Manchester University Private IN 1,241 47 61 $18,657
Taylor University Private IN 1,836 71 87 $25,734
University of Indianapolis Private IN 3,815 43 82 $21,510
Buena Vista University Private IA 1,515 48 64 $20,016
Luther College Private IA 2,012 71 65 $26,013
Mount Mercy University Private IA 1,077 45 57 $22,429
Simpson College Private IA 1,274 63 84 $22,511
University of Dubuque Private IA 1,703 30 74 $22,822
Wartburg College Private IA 1481 60 77 22976
Bethany College Private KS 713 37 67 23856
McPherson College Private KS 674 28 48 21954
Sterling College Private KS 599 25 52 20147
Tabor College Private KS 555 30 53 23815
Centre College Private KY 1450 80 76 26249
Transylvania University Private KY 966 69 95 26454
Bates College Private ME 1787 89 22 23312
Colby College Private ME 1917 89 16 20361
McDaniel College Private MD 1542 58 85 22652
Salisbury University Public MD 7159 49 65 18374
University of Maryland-Baltimore County Public MD 9549 39 60 16056
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Private MA 4502 85 7 22230
Williams College Private MA 2038 86 15 20380
Calvin College Private MI 3521 59 83 26306
Gustavus Adolphus College Private MN 2159 77 68 29894
Hamline University Private MN 2081 59 69 22090
St Catherine University Private MN 2116 37 70 20523
St Olaf College Private MN 3005 85 43 27587
University of St Thomas Private MN 1435 31 81 19221
Lindenwood University Private MO 6235 32 74 17305
Hastings College Private NE 1074 46 68 21400
Midland University Private NE 1194 43 64 23151
Elmira College Private NY 835 55 85 27268
Hartwick College Private NY 1177 49 89 26012
Keuka College Private NY 1318 37 70 25211
Molloy College Private NY 2792 51 76 26977
Elon University Private NC 5864 78 67 33754
Salem College Private NC 676 56 57 18218
Oberlin College Private OH 2799 75 34 39794
Oklahoma Baptist University Private OK 1827 52 65 19008
Linfield College-McMinnville Campus Private OR 1504 65 81 28620
Albright College Private PA 1995 44 50 24673
Chatham University Private PA 954 52 55 25525
Washington & Jefferson College Private PA 1405 67 48 28627
Rhode Island School of Design Private RI 1976 66 32 39777
Charleston Southern University Private SC 2816 24 56 17858
Converse College Private SC 863 67 71 19245
Erskine College Private SC 569 56 55 34550
Wofford College Private SC 1661 77 69 27101
Augustana University Private SD 1679 55 68 18937
University of Sioux Falls Private SD 1033 38 92 19871
Maryville College Private TN 1157 48 49 18597
Union University Private TN 1592 62 60 25162
Austin College Private TX 1202 62 52 21893
Dallas Baptist University Private TX 2434 44 39 25693
Westminster College Private UT 1908 51 93 23608
Middlebury College Private VT 2524 86 17 22841
Hollins University Private VA 632 58 48 19520
Mary Baldwin University Private VA 716 41 95 18339
Randolph-Macon College Private VA 1424 60 62 26575
Virginia Wesleyan College Private VA 1350 46 70 26231
Washington and Lee University Private VA 1827 89 22 25029
Pacific Lutheran University Private WA 2655 58 75 24567
Whitworth University Private WA 2206 65 89 29281
Carthage College Private WI 2604 53 68 26874
Northland College Private WI 597 55 61 20547
University of Wisconsin-Stout Public WI 6586 24 87 14971
Beyond College Rankings: January Terms, Interim Terms, and 4-1-4 Academic Calendar

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