Exploring Winter Term
By Kathryn Knight
Winter Term may be a foreign concept to you, but the trend is catching on at colleges across the country. Some college students don’t jump right back into economics and art history at the beginning of January. Instead, they’re encouraged to take part in Winter Term, which offers students the chance to explore education outside of the classroom.
In fact, Winter Term sessions are becoming so necessary to the collegiate experience that participating colleges require students to complete two to three approved Winter Terms in order to graduate.
There are four general components to Winter Term. While not every participating college offers all four, they provide at least two of the opportunities to students at that university or college.
Most colleges and universities that offer Winter Term provide off-campus study programs. Students can either choose from domestic trips, like a trip to the Sundance Film Festival, or international trips, like language and cultural immersion in Cordoba, Argentina.
These off-campus study programs typically require students to spend about a week on campus, preparing in class through books, movies and instruction on the upcoming trip. The trip itself lasts anywhere from two to three weeks, and students arrive back on campus before the official start of the spring semester.
While some campuses provide students with financial aid opportunities for travel, funds are obviously limited.
Another Winter Term option for students is non-traditional courses on campus. These courses provide students a break from the more rigorous load of the fall and spring semesters with instruction on log rolling or hypnosis—just to name a few.
Housing costs at participating colleges and universities are usually rolled into the spring semester plan, meaning there’s no room and board increase from the fall to spring semester.
Typically, colleges providing Winter Term opportunities require freshmen to stay on-campus for a non-traditional course, giving them more time to get acclimated to the campus culture. After freshmen year, they are free to explore a wider range of Winter Term activities.
Upperclassmen look forward to internship opportunities during Winter Term in order to get work experience before graduation. Most colleges and universities will have agreements with employers in the surrounding area—even alum who work in the area will readily take on interns for a month.
Students interested in Winter Term internships should start the search at the beginning of the fall semester. Colleges that offer Winter Term have campus career centers that are fully equipped to help students land a Winter Term internship.
Students who want to research the sociological implications of social media or the reproduction of silkworms can invest their Winter Term time in an independent study. Generally, independent studies must be approved by the school’s Winter Term office or department. Students must present a case for why and how they will conduct their independent research.
Who’s offering Winter Term opportunities? We’ve found a few schools…