What is Winter Term?

The purpose of winter term is to enable students to pursue academic interests outside of Oberlin's regular course offerings. During the month of January, students complete individual or group projects of their choice, either on or off campus. Projects may be proposed by faculty, students, and occasionally by members of the administrative and professional staff and alumni.

For the student, winter term is an opportunity to spend full time on one intensive project or, alternatively, on two half-time projects. During winter term, a student might:

  • Pursue a subject related to a first-semester course
  • Work with a particular faculty member
  • Study a musical instrument
  • Take an intensive foreign language course
  • Explore a potential career field through an internship
  • Volunteer with a community group
  • Participate in a theatrical or musical production
  • Explore a field of inquiry that is new to the student
  • Pursue a hobby or physical skill

For a faculty member, winter term is an excellent opportunity to direct special research projects, to invite specialists for intensive courses, to teach courses or offer guidance in subjects that do not fit into the regular curriculum, and to support students pursuing self-directed educational projects. Limited monetary support for projects is available through grants awarded by the Winter Term Committee (see Applying for a Project Grant).

The goals of winter term are:

  1. To provide opportunities for intensive and/or unusual educational activities which might be difficult for students or faculty to fit into their fall and spring schedules;
  2. To encourage students to conceptualize and pursue self-directed educational projects, in consultation with the faculty;
  3. To provide faculty with increased opportunities for educational experimentation, collaborative work with students, interdisciplinary projects, scholarly and artistic activity and development, and the exploration of areas of expertise not reflected in their usual course offerings;
  4. To encourage students to test and apply knowledge in off-campus settings through internships, community service, applied research, or career-related experiences;
  5. To promote educationally valuable interactions among students, faculty, members of the administrative and professional staff, and alumni;
  6. To provide educational flexibility.