Oberlin provides a winter term of four weeks in January to encourage and enable students to discover the value of self-education. This term affords students an opportunity to devise and pursue programs of independent study or research and to undertake, individually or with a group, on- or off-campus, other projects of educational value that the structured curriculum during the academic year cannot accommodate easily.
Winter term provides an opportunity for variations and supplements to the usual course offerings, with an emphasis on experimentation and creativity, intellectual independence, and personal responsibility.
Winter term projects may be proposed by faculty, students and occasionally by members of the administrative and professional staff and alumni. Many departments offer individual and group projects; students often devise their own projects. Students who pursue their projects on campus can take advantage of the facilities and opportunities that Oberlin offers. Many concerts, theatrical productions, films, lectures, forums, and discussion groups that enliven winter term are part of on-campus projects.
Typical off-campus projects include (but are not limited to) career exploration, internships, and community service.
Questions about requirements for winter term should be directed to the Academic Advising Resource Center/Registrar for students in the College of Arts and Sciences and to the Office of the Conservatory Associate Deans in the Conservatory of Music.
- Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin are required to earn three full winter-term credits.
- Transfer students must complete one full project in each winter term during their enrollment at Oberlin, unless this would result in more than three projects.
- A project may be completed either individually or as part of a group. Individual projects require a written proposal, final report and a positive assessment of the project by the sponsor. Winter-term projects are evaluated as “completed” (Y) or “not completed” (N); no letter grades are given. Winter-term project titles and evaluations ("Y" or "N") are recorded on student transcripts.
- Winter-term projects are rated as half or full. Students may participate in one half, two halves, or one full project each winter term. The time commitment for a half project is three hours per weekday; the commitment for a full project is five to six hours per weekday.
- The required three winter-term projects may be earned on or off campus, in any combination.
- Students who plan to take a leave of absence for study away for an entire academic year should plan to complete winter-term projects during each of the three years in residence, since they may not register for winter term while on leave for the entire year. Students on leave for one semester may register for winter term if they are enrolled at Oberlin for the other semester of the year and if their courses of study elsewhere do not overlap with winter term.
- Winter-term projects are not the same as semester courses/credit hours, i.e., winter-term projects are not included in the required 32 arts and sciences courses/128 credits, 168 conservatory credits, or 214 credits for the Double Degree Program.
- A student registered for a winter-term project may not be paid for work associated with their project.
Every project must have an on-campus sponsor. Faculty members and, under some circumstances, members of the administrative and professional staff, may serve as project sponsors. Finding a suitable sponsor is largely a matter of matching student and faculty or staff member interests. The sponsor will help the student design a winter-erm project that is academically relevant, rigorous, experiential, and educationally rewarding.
There are no additional tuition or room fees for winter term. Students may purchase (or use their Oberlin College identification cards to charge) individual meals at the dining hall during the hours that it is open during winter term.
Students may also use flex dollars that remain in their accounts from the fall semester to purchase meals at the dining hall during winter term. More information about dining is available on the Campus Dining Services website . Some projects, especially those directed by an invited specialist, require a fee from each participant to help defray expenses.
Planning and Advising
Students should discuss their plans for winter term with their academic advisor and potential project sponsor in September and October. Early planning is especially important for students who choose an internship or other individual project.