Luther's academic year consists of a fall semester, January Term, and spring semester (see Academic Calendar at the end of the catalog). This calendar allows Christmas vacation after final examinations for the fall semester, fall and spring vacations after mid-terms.

The January term at Luther alters the pace of the academic year by creating opportunities for students to engage in focused exploration of a single subject. January study is often experiential and/or experimental, and it offers students both greater freedom and greater responsibility for their learning. A separate listing of January courses is published online every year. Students are required to complete two January terms while enrolled at Luther, one of which is the first-year seminar.

Two four-week summer sessions are offered, one in June and the other in July. Students normally take one four-hour course each session. These sessions, as well as special institutes not offered during the regular school year, are open to Luther students, students from other colleges and universities, teachers in elementary and secondary schools, and other special students. Some courses are open to high school students who are in the top quarter of their high school class academically and will be entering their junior or senior year the following fall. A special bulletin for the summer school with detailed course information is available online each March.