Is requiring J-Term justified?

Featured Image: Illustration of figure in front of a school building on a snowy day. Hailey Benders | Marlin Chronicle

As the holiday spirit fades every January and the days grow even colder, the urge to curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and revel in the lack of assignments, deadlines, and presentations becomes almost unbearable. Students are no exception. However, first-years and many other students must bundle up and trudge out of their cozy dorms to a four-hour class every single day of the week.

This is the reality of January Term. Although I may have slightly dramatized the circumstances, all Virginia Wesleyan’s first-years are still required to take an intensive course for three weeks in January. Some older students decide to enroll in January Term to knock out required credits or simply because the topic interests them.

Should January Term be mandatory? In my honest opinion, there is no right answer. There are many reasons why January Term can be helpful, as well as many reasons that it can be an inconvenience.

Firstly, taking a class on the same subject every day for three weeks can be extremely tedious. During the normal school year, a student’s work week is normally filled with classes of differing topics and interests.

These courses are often slower-paced, given that they have almost four months to cover the material. However, during January Term, students choose only one class for the entire month. This means that the work will be more fast-paced and sometimes more stressful, given the amount of information a student must receive in a short period of time.

On the other hand, because the January class covers only one subject, students may thrive and become more knowledgeable about the topic, since they have no other courses to devote their attention to. This could greatly benefit their GPA and transcripts. January Term can also shorten the time a student would need to be in school and can help them earn their degree faster.

Another argument against mandatory January classes is the fact that a student’s winter break will be cut short. Since Virginia Wesleyan students mostly finish final exams in the first week of December, those taking a January term get barely a month off of school since classes resume the first week of January. Who wants to wake up early every morning amidst freezing temperatures, go to class and then race to finish homework before dark? The thought is honestly quite depressing.

One of the biggest points of contention over January Term is the fact that it is mandatory for first-years. Most of the time, when you tell students that something MUST be done, they tend to want to do anything else but that thing. Perhaps if January Term was presented as a recommendation instead of a mandate, there would be more interest surrounding it and students would regard it in a better light.

In my opinion, January courses should not be mandatory for first-years, but required for at least one out of the four years of the undergraduate program. This would give students the liberty to choose what year they enroll and thus feel more in charge of their future, rather than feeling like they are simply following orders.

Speaking as someone with seasonal depression and a passionate hatred for winter, although breaks are crucial, having nothing to do for an entire month makes me feel incredibly bored. Therefore, waking up with the knowledge that there are things to be done and people to see is greatly refreshing.

Yes, it can get tedious at times, but at least you are surrounded by classmates that are most likely experiencing the same things and taking steps toward securing your degree in a timely fashion.


Molly Brennan is a sophomore Allied Health major. She loves filmmaking and big dogs. She can be contacted at


By: Molly Brennan