Sophomore J-Term not justified

It’s not new information that Virginia Wesleyan University requires students to take a January Term in their first year. While J-Terms are beneficial for some students, many dread returning to campus in the heart of winter. 

I spent my J-Term taking a class with Dr. Jeffrey Toussaint, associate professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice. 

While I loved his class, outside of it, I was busy shivering in my room and thinking about how much time I could have spent with my family. 

So when it was recently announced that we would have to take another J-Term during our sophomore year, you can imagine I wasn’t thrilled. 

When this was made known in my class, it felt like a town hall meeting and we were some really angry citizens. We all raised our hands immediately to express our complaints and concerns. 

I am not completely against the idea of school during this time; I think January Terms should be an option. However, I believe it is not right to make this additional semester a requirement for sophomore year. 

After my first semester in college, I needed a break from school, and two weeks was simply not enough to regain the strength required to put my full energy into my studies. 

I felt I gave half of what I could during J-Term to a class I was really interested in. This wasn’t fair to me or my professor. January could have been a time for me to reset and relax, but instead, I spent it doing schoolwork.

There’s also the distance component. I live five hours away with no vehicle and cannot regularly visit home. 

To me, J-Term just means another month that I have to spend away from my family.

I understand the logic behind having first-years take a class in January. It leaves less time for the student to be home and realize they want to just stay there. It maintains Virginia Wesleyan’s retention rate.

This being said, cold feet do not usually roll over to the second year. By that time, if a student didn’t want to be in college, they would have left. This leaves no need for another required J-Term. 

But now, sophomores are required to take a class and attend a professional skills seminar series during January, and I see significant problems with this.

As a student in the Batten Honors College, I was granted a scholarship after competing for a spot. This financial aid was the reason I decided to attend VWU. However, my scholarship only covers fall and spring semesters, meaning I had to take out more loans to cover the cost of this additional semester.

I wasn’t planning on doing another J-Term because of this. My plans involved spending time at home and working full-time so I could continue to afford college. 

First-year Stephanie Clark, another Batten Honors student, agreed with the financial strain of this requirement. “College is already expensive, and even with three-quarters or full-tuition scholarships, most of us already work jobs to be able to afford the normal two semesters. And that’s just for BHC kids,” Clark said. “Most of the current freshmen don’t have those scholarships, and forcing them to pay more money for a class some of them don’t even need is honestly disrespectful.” 

I feel that it is unfair to make a graduation requirement have such a large price tag outside the traditional semesters, let alone twice. 

This isn’t only affecting those who don’t want to take another J-Term. This could also bring potential obstacles to the upperclassmen who choose to take these classes in January.

This new rule could make registering harder, as there are more students to fill classes. 

This limits the probability that they will get the class they want, or whichever one they need to fulfill either a major or general education requirement.

The new requirement affects all students, whether you see the requirement as positive or negative. 

I wish student opinions were considered more in this decision, and that it was better communicated during orientation that it was demanded we take a second J-Term. 

Kara Hopkins is a BHC first-year majoring in Media and Communications with a minor in Environmental Studies. She enjoys freshwater fishing and spending time with friends and family. Kara can be contacted at

By Kara Hopkins