J-term means Play-term? Dispelling J-term Misconceptions

On a cold and blustery day (though not quite as cold and blustery as today, with a high of 0 and a low of -7) this time last year, as a senior in high school, I made my first official visit to Luther College. Like any other visit, there was a tour of the campus, lunch in the Caf, and an overview of academics at the college. However, because the visit was during J-term, I got an extra dose of what life on campus is like during the month of January.

January Term, or J-term for short, is a three and a half week term where you take one class, but it is worth 4-credits—the equivalent of taking a semester long class. If you’re interested in learning more about all the different classes and options offered during J-term, visit the J-term website. For this post, I will be focusing specifically on the first-year seminar that every (surprise!) first-year must take during J-term.

During my visit last J-term to Luther, my overall impression was that it would be a relaxed-pace month offering a break from the normal ebb and flow of a traditional semester. After all, you have only one class, rather than four or five to juggle, and clubs, for the most part, do not meet again until second semester. The majority of people I talked to during my visit said that J-term was “super chill” with many identifying it as “play-term.”

I am here to tell you that J-term is certainly not play-term. Although the schedule is different than that of a semester, January term is not an extended Christmas break. In fact, it is at times crazier than a class during a normal semester! Here are four Misconceptions About J-term…

  1. It is a blow-off
    1. I am here to tell you that J-term courses, at least first-year seminars, for the most part, are not blow-off classes. While there is a huge variety of courses offered, such as “Life Inside: Sociology of Prisons”, “Religion and the Beatles”, and my own class, “Society and the 6th Mass Extinction”, these classes are certainly not blow-off classes. For my class we had presentations on the second day back, while a girl on my floor, who is in the Sociology of Prisons class, was required to be in solitary confinement for 17 hours and given around 200 pages of reading to do for class the next day!
  2. It is slower paced
    1. Quite the contrary! One semester worth of material is crammed into 18 days of class—essentially each class is worth a week of material!
  3. You never have homework
    1. As if college didn’t entail a lot of reading already, J-term brings a new meaning to the amount of reading one is expected to do each day. On top of the readings, there are a lot of other assignments including papers, presentations, and preparation for debates. Homework is a given in almost any J-term class.
  4. You have tons of free time
    1. While I do have moments of extra time, J-term is basically the same as first-semester. I have 3 hours of class a day and about 4-5 hours of homework, plus work study and track practice. None of my clubs are meeting, so I do have a bit of extra time from that.

While J-term may not be what I expected, is still is a nice change of pace and a great opportunity to take a course that is new or outside of your major.

The start of a snowfall

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