J-Term, Play Term?


Image by Katie Dodge

Kaylee Traylor, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The Randolph-Macon website opens its page in January-term with, “What can you do in a month?”

This is certainly a statement students have taken to heart, in two ways. The first is truly working on a challenging course, studying abroad, internships, etc. Some students find J-term to be a time to lock in on their studies and spend most of their days looking to better their academics. Other students, however, have a different mindset. January-term is also often referred to as “play-term,” a time when students can coast through an easy course in order to focus on their social life; some by getting back in the gym and others by partying multiple nights a week. Of course, many students find themselves in the middle, searching for a balance between the two extremes. In order to discover how students really feel about the January-term, I sent out a survey and received some interesting results. 

Everyone surveyed took some form of J-term course. 85.7% took a course, and 14.3% were involved in an internship. The College markets J-term as an “optional” period of instruction; but it is important to note that taking a J-term course every year is a part of the “4-year-guarantee” the college offers. It appears students are aware of this and do take some form of a January course each year. 

I wanted to be very straightforward on the survey; I asked students directly, “Did you take something for the purpose of being easy?” Only 23.8% of students answered “yes.” 76.2% answered “no.” This does necessarily mean that students took an academically challenging course on purpose either, so I asked. 38.1% of students surveyed chose to take a challenging course during J-term, 61.9% did not. This then leaves another 38.1% of students that did not purposefully take an easy or challenging course. 

I also asked students if they agreed with the widely used phrase, “J-term, play-term.” It was an even split. 42.9% said “yes,” and 42.9% said “no.” I also received some free response answers. Some students said that circumstances outside of course work keep them from having a “play-term,” others said the courses offered during J-term are too difficult for anyone to have an easy January. One student even mentioned that the Covid-19 pandemic has limited their opportunities for a true “play-term.” 

Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of J-term overall, and that was my main motivation for creating this survey. I see J-term as always being a mentally taxing time for me and my peers. It also completely throws off our schedule from other colleges and I find myself explaining it often to friends and family. However, my opinion is in the minority here. I finished my survey by asking if students thought the school should continue with having a January-term: 90.5% of students surveyed said “yes.” 4.8% of students agreed with me that J-term is unnecessary, and another 4.8% of students said they were unsure. One student  listed the cause of their uncertainty as the aforementioned scheduling consequences J-term has on when we finish our Spring semester for summer break. There is no implication that J-term is going anywhere anytime soon, so we will continue to try and find some time for “play-term” in between classes, internships, jobs, extracurriculars, and everything else we find occupying our time.