Beyond College Rankings: January Terms, Interim Terms, and Winter Terms

Picture of globe in front of chalk board

Once 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 calendar.

The what calendar?

Sometimes referred to as a January term or winter term, it is a short-term 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.

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.

The career centers at some schools have set up Career Exploration Classes that include working on a resume, job shadowing, or even short internships. Linfield College’s program was focused on the wine industry.

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.

Then there are the on-campus classes that provide the chance to study a subject from a different perspective. Courses include “The Fatherland in Cleats: Soccer and Identities in the Americas” at Williams, “Should Cloning and Genetic Engineering be Part of Our Future?” at Elon, “Algorithmic Trading” at Austin College, and “Japan and Korea through Film” at St. Olaf.

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. Many of these schools participate in an exchange program that allows students to attend January terms at other campuses.

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.

NameState AbbrFull-time Under-graduates5 yr Graduation Rate
Albright CollegePA229761
Alma CollegeMI138361
Augustana CollegeSD169466
Austin CollegeTX128778
Barton CollegeNC87336
Bates CollegeME172587
Bethany CollegeWV87856
Bethany CollegeKS58830
Biola UniversityCA384262
Birmingham Southern CollegeAL150460
Bridgewater CollegeVA167363
Buena Vista UniversityIA227956
Calvin CollegeMI379275
Carthage CollegeWI253958
Centre CollegeKY124186
Chapman UniversityCA467867
Charleston Southern UniversitySC243131
Chatham UniversityPA67959
Colby CollegeME182589
Converse CollegeSC61457
Dallas Baptist UniversityTX230344
Davis & Elkins CollegeWV68158
DePauw UniversityIN237285
Doane CollegeNE104255
Eastern Nazarene CollegeMA82854
Eckerd CollegeFL207368
Elmhurst CollegeIL290468
Elmira CollegeNY122163
Elon UniversityNC489380
Erskine College and SeminarySC54160
Franklin CollegeIN106054
Graceland University-LamoniIA117244
Greenville CollegeIL132858
Gustavus Adolphus CollegeMN242477
Hamline UniversityMN187369
Hampshire CollegeMA153468
Hanover CollegeIN100565
Hartwick CollegeNY148754
Hastings CollegeNE110964
Hofstra UniversityNY682158
Hollins UniversityVA74763
Huntington UniversityIN109360
Illinois Wesleyan UniversityIL208881
Keuka CollegeNY131755
LaGrange CollegeGA57958
Lindenwood UniversityMO668342
Linfield CollegeOR169463
Luther CollegeIA242274
Manchester CollegeIN124053
Mary Baldwin CollegeVA105444
Maryville CollegeTN106057
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyMA425291
Massachusetts Maritime AcademyMA115863
McDaniel CollegeMD159969
McPherson CollegeKS62343
Middlebury CollegeVT250590
Midland Lutheran CollegeNE75252
Millersville University of PennsylvaniaPA691558
Molloy CollegeNY251156
Mount Mercy UniversityIA90060
Mount Vernon Nazarene UniversityOH173959
New College of FloridaFL80168
Northland CollegeWI53353
Oberlin CollegeOH290156
Oklahoma Baptist UniversityOK149151
Pacific Lutheran UniversityWA310363
Randolph-Macon CollegeVA119761
Rhode Island School of DesignRI197586
Saint Marys College of CaliforniaCA244762
Salem CollegeNC69457
Salisbury UniversityMD710366
Samford UniversityAL275754
Simpson CollegeIA148768
St. Catherine UniversityMN257363
St. Olaf CollegeMN310585
Sterling CollegeKS63640
Tabor CollegeKS54841
Taylor UniversityIN184777
The College of IdahoID99557
The University of Texas at ArlingtonTX1429132
Toccoa Falls CollegeGA71149
Transylvania UniversityKY109973
Union UniversityTN220058
University of DelawareDE1589475
University of DubuqueIA148744
University of IndianapolisIN303348
University of La VerneCA282266
University of Maryland-BaltimoreMD533
University of Maryland-Baltimore CountyMD883052
University of New HavenCT364249
University of RedlandsCA297863
University of San DiegoCA516771
University of Sioux FallsSD98048
University of St ThomasMN595875
University of Wisconsin-StoutWI703947
Virginia Wesleyan CollegeVA110544
Wartburg CollegeIA171562
Washington & Jefferson CollegePA144370
Westminster CollegeUT220249
Whittier CollegeCA150365
Whitworth UniversityWA232678
Williams CollegeMA199995
Wofford CollegeSC146483

  1. […] January or May terms are one way of allowing students the opportunity to visit a different part of the country to explore their interests. Many schools will have their own off-campus programs for specific majors. However, there are other opportunities for domestic off-campus student and exchanges for students from colleges that don’t offer the previous options. […]

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