What if you are admitted to your preferred college—but not until the winter or spring? It's pretty frustrating, but fortunately you do have options. Here's how you can turn the situation around to your advantage.
Why Would a College Admit You in the Spring?
A college may not have enough openings to admit you for the fall. Occasionally they may decide you need a bit more academic prep before starting. But if the college definitely wants you as a student, they may offer you spring admission. Many colleges have room in the winter or spring terms because of students graduating or going abroad.
What to do? Do you delay entering your top college for a whole semester, or start at a second-choice school that has accepted you for the fall?
Consider the Advantages
A calm and cool start. You avoid the chaos and confusion of hundreds of other students competing for parking, moving furniture, lining up in the bookstore, making last-minute class registration changes, or scrambling for housing. By contrast, most students have settled in by the spring so your first semester starts off relatively peacefully.
Time for yourself. Who couldn't use some time off from academics? You get several months to volunteer, work, travel, and generally give yourself a breather. Many students report that time away from the demands of school has led to life-changing experiences and insights. This may be a chance to experience another culture, develop foreign language skills, intern in a potential career area, develop creative skills—the possibilities are virtually limitless. On a practical note, you can choose to earn more money for college!
Academic catch-up. You get time to build your academic skills to qualify for college-level classes. You might even avoid the placement tests required of fall admits. Your college may offer such classes or you could take them at another college. But check carefully with your college to make sure you will get credit.
Consider the Drawbacks
Fewer entry-level courses. Introduction courses, especially for popular majors, may not be as readily available in the spring.
Membership opportunities. You may have to delay "Greek" membership since you may not have completed the required coursework by spring rush. Campus club membership rosters may be full.
Graduation delay. You may not able to graduate by the end of your fourth year. But many fall admits don't graduate in four years anyway.
What You Can Do While Waiting for Spring
Instead of hibernating until the ground gets warm, stick your nose into some interesting and awarding experiences.
- Start attending your college now as an extension student. Some colleges offer an academic program in the fall just for spring admits. For example, American University offers a "Mentorship Program" in the fall for spring admits. You can participate in campus life and live in dorms like a regular student. Some programs offer a full course load with grades that go on your record, so you can still graduate in four years. Discuss your plans with your college before enrolling.
- Take a semester "gap" program. Called "gap," "interim," or "pre-college" programs, opportunities abound for everything from inner-city teaching to working on organic farms in developing countries.
- Work at a temp job. Build your nest egg for college.
- Travel. Expand your knowledge and experience of the world.
- Continue your good work. Service projects and internships give you real-world education and may be beneficial to your career to boot.
- Get a jump on your studies. Most professors list their course syllabi and required reading lists online.
Spring Start Pointers
What do spring-start students say about their experiences? Here are a few pointers to help you out.
- Negotiate a fall start after all. Talk to the admissions office about how much you really want to attend their college and how much you want to start in the fall. They may very well find a place for you.
- Don't choose another college out of frustration. If the spring-admit college is the college of your heart and mind, go there. Your spring admission won't matter after a few months.
- Don't feel inferior to the fall-admit students. Many students are admitted in the spring, especially at larger schools. In fact there will probably be a special orientation program to help you with your transition. You should fit right in immediately.
- Don't overdo it. Don't try to make up for lost time by taking on a heavier-than-average course load. You could burn out. Take advantage of the school's academic advisors to see what classes they suggest you register for. And leave time for involvement in school organizations and clubs if that's your inclination.
- Get on-campus housing. Living with other regular students will make you feel like just another member of the student body. Some schools will permit spring-admit students to apply for student housing in the fall.
If a fall admission doesn't work out for you, you can still find the silver lining in a delayed admission—and be all the richer when you start college in the spring. As an essay from the Harvard admissions staff points out, ". . . many [students] would benefit from a pause in their demanding lives. Let us hope that more of them will take some sort of time-out before burnout becomes the hallmark of their generation."