Over the past few years, many colleges and universities have received huge increases in their volume of first-time, first-year applications. There has also been a sharp rise in the number of students choosing to apply early. As a result of these patterns, admit rates have dropped, some classes have increased in size, and residence halls are groaning under the weight of so many students! From the norm of singles and doubles has arisen the norm of triples, and even quads – challenging for young people who have grown up with their own room. Some universities are even having to convert lounges into bedrooms.
These and other space constraints have prompted more colleges to offer a select number of students the option of spring admission. Some colleges may even offer students the option of spring entry on their application, a practice long in use by Purdue University. These spring seats open up after December graduates have left and study abroad students are no longer on campus. Colleges will typically offer this opportunity to high achieving students who exhibit evidence of independence, leadership, and flexibility. Students who are offered January enrollment must first pay their enrollment fees to secure their spot. Colleges will want to chat with them about plans under consideration for their fall semester and will likely encourage classes, travel, community service or employment. During the fall, these students will be contacted for housing and meal plan options and will attend a first-year orientation before arriving on campus in January. Note that students who accept the offer of spring admission cannot enroll elsewhere and cannot defer their enrollment until the following fall semester. If spring admission is not an option, the student will have to reapply for the following fall semester.
One of the main concerns that first-year students have about entering college in the spring is graduation – can they still graduate on time with their peers? The answer is almost always YES, you can. The way to ensure this is to work closely with an academic advisor in order to gain their assistance in selecting the right coursework to stay on track. Many students may choose to complete coursework at a local community college during the summer or over winter break – again, talk to your advisor first because it is imperative to select transferable courses. Spring admits may also want to study abroad and this again is easily manageable. This is the perfect time to remind students that there are many ways of entering college with a full semester of academic credits already under their belts through CLEP tests, AP exams, and community college classes. Find out ahead of time what your colleges’ spring admission policies are and plan accordingly.
Some spring admits may worry about coursework within their major that is offered in strict sequence. Examples of this may be in the fields of mathematics and science. For example, Calculus 1 may only be available in the fall and required of an engineering major before entering a specific Physics class in the spring. Prehealth students wishing to complete Organic Chemistry may find that Chemistry 2 is a prerequisite, but if Chemistry 1 is offered only in the fall, they may have to wait to start the sequence. Again, as soon as you are clear on accepting spring admission, look into course sequences and prerequisites, and talk to your academic advisor.
Some spring admits do report a few transition challenges: fall first years may have already built friendship bonds, spring orientation rarely has the fanfare of the big fall orientation programs, and it may be harder to learn about clubs and organizations. But look on the bright side – the smaller size of spring orientation will mean a more relaxed atmosphere and more one-on-one conversations with students and faculty are possible. Residence hall advisors create programming to ensure that the newbies are quickly connected to other students. Make sure you also learn about any financial aid implications to spring entry. Some colleges also require that students live on campus for a semester before being able to join a sorority or fraternity.
For many students, being a spring first year is a wonderful opportunity. Treat the fall semester ‘off’ like a mini-gap year and explore your many options. Consider an internship and start building
your resume; take classes to accelerate your major completion; or just get a job and save money. College is what you make it and knowing that entry in the spring will have no bearing on your ability to graduate on time, and be successful and fulfilled, makes it a great life experience that should be carefully and thoughtfully considered.