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Spring Admits

A new crop of college freshmen has just taken root at campuses across the country: the “Spring Admits.”  These students were accepted to start school second semester instead of in the fall with the rest of the freshman class. Why?

Typically, colleges simply do not have enough spaces to admit everyone for the fall semester. It’s tricky business calculating how many students to accept and how many will actually enroll. Colleges are able to admit a group of freshmen to start after Winter Break, to take the place of other students who will be studying abroad or graduating. And there are usually a handful of spots left by students who decide to leave the college for financial or personal reasons.

Some schools, like Northeastern University, have specially designed first semester study abroad programs for a select group of incoming freshmen – programs that will allow students to take introductory courses, hone their study skills, and gain independence before coming to campus in the spring.

Other colleges have programs in the U.S. and abroad, where freshmen can participate in a more hands-on curriculum before coming to campus for the next term. UC Berkeley, for example, offers several options to its spring admits – they can attend UC Berkeley extension classes, attend community college, or take a gap semester to work, travel or relax. Some colleges offer spots in these programs just to spring admits, while others open their programs to all accepted freshmen (i.e. Elon University Gap Semester Program, University of Maryland Freshman Abroad Program). Going beyond the typical semester gap is Tufts University, which just launched 1+4 — an innovative bridge year program where students take on a structured year of full-time national or international service before starting their freshman year on campus.

Anyway you slice it, the student granted spring or alternative admission to their first choice school can make the most of the situation—even if at first it seems a bit unsettling. While it may not be the right decision for every student — they don’t get to move in to their dorm with the rest of their class, and may initially find it challenging to break into already established social groups and clubs — here are the positives:

  • Your kid gets to go to a college they love.
  • They can spend that first semester or year working, studying abroad, taking classes at the local community college or in a program offered by their college, traveling or doing community service.
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If your student is planning to take a semester or gap year studying abroad or at an alternative academic program unaffiliated with the college, make sure they check with their college registrar in advance to ensure course credits will transfer.

  • If they are starting a semester “late,” spring admits can often catch up and graduate with their class (depending on the curriculum and major). But sometimes this may require taking a heavier course-load.
  • Most colleges offer a special orientation for freshmen and transfer students before second semester classes start. They are attuned to these incoming students’ need to feel welcomed into the college community and many have special programs in place to make sure the adjustment to school goes smoothly.

I was a spring admit at Connecticut College.  Conn was my first choice school and initially I was a bit disappointed when I did not get accepted to start in the fall. From the college’s perspective, I could suspect their reasons – I was an A student but not a great test taker. On top of that, I was in the first graduating class of a brand new high school, so the college had no frame of reference for my school’s grading system or any other previously accepted students to compare me to. So… off I went to the University of London for a semester abroad and an experience that could not have been matched. I traveled, met lifelong friends, saw great theatre, and all my credits transferred. Most importantly, my worldview was broadened and I felt empowered and independent. When I got to college second semester, I remember having an easy time acclimating and, after the first few weeks, I was just another freshman among all the other freshmen.

The moral of the story is riddled with clichés (but ain’t it the truth?): Good things come to those who wait. Things happen for a reason and somehow it always works out in the end. Sometimes better. Because very often, the curvy path makes all the difference.


Want to know more?

Why Your College Apps Should Include Study Abroad by Justine Harrington 


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