When I was a senior in high school, I was accepted to my first choice college–but not for enrollment in September. My letter offered entrance in January for the start of second semester.
Whaaat? I had never heard of such a thing. Looking back, I don’t think another student in my class received a mid-year acceptance. I remember being totally confused.
These days, January offers are much more common. I don’t want to give the impression that all or most colleges extend this type of acceptance. But many colleges with which we work at Moses Brown admit for both September and January; we think students and families should be aware that both possibilities exist.
In recent admission cycles, a number of colleges and universities have offered MB seniors winter enrollment. The list includes Babson, Colby, Middlebury, Northeastern, Brandeis, Skidmore, U. of Maryland, U. of Miami, the University of Southern California and New York University–among others.
Why do some colleges offer mid-year admits?
Institutions need to balance their number of enrolled students (and accompanying revenues) during first and second semesters. Managing enrollment on a campus is tricky. Some students graduate early and leave spaces open in classrooms and residence halls. Occasionally students must leave college at mid-year (or earlier) for financial, health or family reasons. Sometimes college just doesn’t work out and students withdraw.
Who tends to be chosen for January entrance versus regular September admission?
I can’t offer an absolutely scientific answer, but I can give a general sense. Applicants accepted for January typically come close to the standard profile of an admitted student–but not quite. Admission deans typically like the student being considered for January a lot and do not want to turn him or her away completely. Rather than placing him or her on the waitlist (with highly uncertain prospects for acceptance), deans sometimes prefer to offer a concrete place in the class. Ironically, while most seniors feel a mid-year acceptance is somehow second-rate, admission deans don’t feel that way at all. They are doing their best to make room for an applicant and attract him or her to the campus.
Our colleague David duKor-Jackson notes that sometimes an admission staff perceives a strong match between the background of a candidate and the opportunities associated with mid-year acceptance programs–especially if the college involved sponsors fall or summer experiences leading to winter entrance. David encourages students and families to understand the highly positive aspects of January offers.
What should a senior do who has been admitted for January?
First of all, slow down and really contemplate the acceptance–don’t write it off because it seems weird, uncommon, or unusual. Go see your college advisor right away to seek insight and advice.
Consider your alternatives during the fall semester prior to enrollment. Think creatively. Dream a bit. Imagine what half a “gap year” might be like. Or consider how much money you could earn if you worked for several months. Many colleges that offer mid-year admission automatically invite candidates to participate in fall travel or internship programs that they sponsor and organize. Would you like to go abroad during your first semester in college? Would you be excited to pursue an internship in a political setting? As our colleague David emphasizes, “All these things offer opportunities to explore a place.” You might also be able to take courses part-time (or even full-time) at an institution closer to home and begin to accumulate credits.
Ask questions of our liaison at the college that has accepted you for second semester. Gather their advice; learn all that you can about services and resources for students entering in January. Ask whether the college sponsors an orientation–even a brief one–for students joining the freshman class in January. What kind of housing will be available? Will you likely have a freshman roommate–or live with sophomores or juniors? Would the college accept course credits from another institution during the fall semester? Can you catch up and graduate “on time” with your college class by taking summer courses?
What you should avoid doing
It’s tempting to call the college that has admitted you for mid-year and try to convince them to revise their offer to September. It is highly unlikely a change will occur. A board of admission has spent a lot of time making an appropriate decision about you. Admission officers work with highly sophisticated predictive models for enrollment; they know how many students they can accommodate for September–and how many they need to fill spaces during second semester. The overall budget of the college depends upon this proper planning.
In summary, don’t ignore or toss out a winter acceptance. A number of Moses Brown graduates have had great experiences prior to joining a campus community in January. Our students have traveled to London and France; they have also worked and taken courses. The possibilities are substantial; let’s talk about them in College Counseling.
In the words of one admission officer, “there are different paths through college.”
by Helen Scotte Gordon
PS: As for me, I did not enroll at the college that offered January entrance. I commuted to a nearby school for a semester and then moved onto the campus. I remained there and had a fabulous experience through graduation. But… I wish I had known more and asked more questions about the opportunities associated with mid-year acceptance.