First of all, J-Term/J-Termer is not an official name at Columbia University; however my group of 60 students who started in January of 2013 is called “J-Termers” within SIPA. The “J” stands for January, since that’s the month when we started our program. Compared to the fall term start, our group is much smaller and more exclusive. 🙂 I chose to start in the spring semester, because two main reasons. One, it worked out with work; two and the important one, I knew starting the two year program in January will allow me to do two internships over the two summers. Having more practical experience will be valuable when applying for jobs after graduating from SIPA. Also, I think especially if one wants to transition into another field, having two summer internship opportunities will be a great asset to acquire specific industry knowledge that one can bring to the table when applying for that full-time job after SIPA. And for the students who may not know exactly in what field they want to pursue a career in, the two internships will allow them to explore two different fields before making a decision. My previous professional experience is in Private and Investment Banking and I am looking to move into a more macroeconomic and risk analysis career. Therefore, having a couple summers will allow me to gain the appropriate tools to successfully make this transition.
The curriculum for J-Terms is exactly the same as for any other students starting in the fall semester; however the courses have a slightly different order, which may pose a challenge to some students. I personally don’t think this is a significant issue, especially with the assistance of the Student Affairs Office and its Deans. Since our group is small compared to the group in the fall, all concentrations were in the same group during orientation. This was especially interesting since I not only got to meet my fellow IFEP’ers (International Finance and Economic Policy folks), but also students from all the other concentrations, which will enhance the opportunities to connect with interesting people that have different backgrounds and professional goals.
Another point that may mistakenly be held against starting in January is the opportunity to be a TA (Teacher’s Assistant) or receive fellowships/scholarships. From my experience this is a misconception; since many of my classmates received summer scholarships and fellowships for the fall semester (only after a semester into their studies). Receiving such scholarships/fellowships depends on your grades, performance and initiative.
Bottom line; the students who start in January may (at most) have to be a little more flexible since some first semester courses will only be offered during the J-Termer’s second semester; however that said if you are a go-getter and don’t mind taking the initiative then the J-Term is a great way to get your degree at SIPA. So far, I am very satisfied that I am one of the J-Termers and look forward to meeting you at SIPA.
posted by Andreas Maerki, MPA 2014, International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)