First Year Seminar, Scientific Inquiry, and Senior Capstone are slowly phasing out of Mercer’s curriculum.
With these classes gradually being phased out, new INT and WRT courses are being added each semester.
The number of questions about new requirements are increasing, and advisors are stuck in a state of academic flux.
There have been a lot of changes to Mercer’s academic programs, but there is one change floating around the rumor mill that could disrupt the entire academic calendar, and one that I am not sure will be good for Mercer: a January Term.
A January Term, or J-Term, is a shortened period of study for a month between fall and spring semesters, where students can earn a lot of credits in a short amount of time.
There are many schools that have J-Terms instead of the more common Maymester, including NYU, SMU, University of Virginia, and University of New Hampshire.
Students have the opportunity to study abroad, conduct research, work in an internship, or take classes during January before beginning their spring semesters.
J-Terms are usually optional and students apply for admission into J-Term programs during their fall semesters.
I can see why J-Terms would be beneficial. Students with rigorous majors, like pre-health or engineering, can use J-Terms to study other subjects or requirements to free their semester-long schedules.
Because J-Terms are short and concentrated, students can take difficult classes and focus their studies on one or two specific classes.
Flights are sometimes cheaper in the wintertime after the new year, so study abroad can become more accessible to students as well.
Students can also seek to hold internship positions from December through January, allowing them to gain valuable work experience.
But, there are some drawbacks, and I don’t think Mercer should introduce a J-Term.
The HOPE Scholarship covers Maymester terms at public schools in Georgia, but that means having to deal with Financial Aid and the Bursar, as well as the online GACollege411 applications, and that would only cover a small portion of tuition unless Mercer decided either to change scholarships or give us more money (both of which I doubt would happen!).
I believe that the financial benefits are marginal and don’t justify introducing a J-Term.
A J-Term would also make our winter breaks really, really long. This could be a good thing, and this could also be a bad thing.
On one hand, with an optional J-Term, students would be able to choose whether or not they want to come to school in January.
Students who don’t need or want to enroll in a J-Term would have three extra weeks of winter break. And extra three weeks of break sounds great, right?
Well, considering where those three weeks come from, it might not be so great.
Semesters at Mercer are four months long, so if the spring semester doesn’t start until February, it won’t end until the end of May.
Those three weeks for a J-Term would come from our summer vacation, cutting it short by almost a month.
At SMU, for example, the final week of classes is the third week of May and students take their exams the week after.
I know I’d be bored out of my mind in between the fall and spring semesters with a month and a half of break, but a month and a half for summer is not long enough!
I may be speaking for myself when I say that I would much rather have a longer summer than winter break; so, for me, a J-Term is unappealing.
Like I said, the implementation of a J-Term seems to be an idea that the upper administration is throwing around.
These changes would not likely affect any students currently at Mercer, so I guess there is nothing jeopardizing our winter and summer vacations.
But think of future Mercerians – do they really need to escape the “harsh” Georgia winter by studying abroad in January?
Is it really fair to cut an entire month of summer vacation out?
Should seniors go through another month of battling senioritis and classes to make it to graduation?
If you answered no to any of these questions, I’d say we are in agreement that Mercer’s first J-Term would do more harm than good.