McPherson College structures its academic terms on the 4–1–4 academic model; that is, the fall and spring semesters take place during four-month periods (roughly, late August through early December and late January through early May) with a one-month intervening term referred to as January Interterm. During the January Interterm, students take only one course.

Because most students average around 14 hours per semester during the fall and spring terms, and because students must complete no fewer than 124 credit hours to graduate (an average of 31 credit hours per year), most students need to enroll for Interterm classes each year in order to graduate in four years. Students should plan carefully and review their progress toward graduation with their faculty advisor or the registrar before choosing not to enroll for a January Interterm.