Congratulations on your acceptance for JANUARY entrance!

MB Front Circle, spring 2012

MB Front Circle, spring 2012

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.


82 degrees and 119,000 square feet: a spring break highlight

There is a liability associated with being a devoted college advisor.

Whether I am traveling on business for Moses Brown or on personal vacation, I know there is a campus to explore near every airport, convention center or major highway exit. I can’t help myself; I’m always scheming to see a new or different college–or view an interesting addition to a university with which I am already familiar.

Such was the case during our recent March break. I have been on the University of Miami campus many times. (My son is a happy student there.) One year ago, The U had just broken ground on a new student center. Twelve months later, I was thrilled to view the completed shell of the facility. Once all the mechanicals and furnishings are installed, the building will open in the fall of 2013.

As soon as we arrived on the campus in our rental car, I begged my spouse to pull over (in a not so legal spot) so that I could take a few photos from the far side of Lake Osceola.  Then we set out on foot to get as close to the construction site as possible. I was a college advisor on a mission! (Our son, the dear junior, agreed to meet us at the fencing blockade that prevents pedestrians from entering the hard-hat zone. He knows the ways of his Mom.)


Here’s what I learned about the addition to the University of Miami campus:

*a 20 million dollar gift from a foundation launched the project

*the new student activities center is adjacent to the current student union, constructed in 1965. Since the opening of the original union, the number of student clubs and groups at UMiami has more than doubled. The new space will feature abundant offices and meeting areas for undergraduate and graduate organizations.

*a banquet/ballroom will provide seating for more than 800 people

For those who are architecture buffs, the new student activities center is designed by Architectonica. This is an international firm based in Miami, known for their creation of cultural, educational, residential and athletic complexes. While a few campus loyalists worry that the new student center has a prominent presence on Lake Osceola, I like the bold, clean, contemporary lines. Structural change on every campus is hard; overall the enthusiasm for the project is extremely high.  Along with the architects, U Miami is credited for linking the new center with the adjacent existing facility–as well as for connecting the building to a nearby outdoor recreation deck (including a pool). There will also be tiered outdoor seating in front of the center to allow students, faculty and staff to enjoy the natural beauty of The Lake. (In summary, UM is working to create an area on the campus where student life thrives.)


Next visit, I look forward to viewing the finished interior–all four floors and 119,000 square feet in action.

by Helen Scotte Gordon

The Common Application announces the five new essay prompts!

Chalk project in the arts center at Colorado College

Chalk project in the arts center at Colorado College

 A preliminary message from MB College Counseling:

Our staff devotes a tremendous amount of time during the fall to helping seniors with their essays.    We assist with every phase of the process, from explaining the purpose of the essay to brainstorming approaches to the prompts.  (The lengthy questionnaire juniors complete prior to the first family meeting in College Counseling draws out many topics and themes; juniors often generate the perfect opening sentence for the essay on this survey!)

During the fall, we constantly read drafts, offer reactions, and highlight places to improve and strengthen the essay.  Most importantly, David and I help students communicate a unique aspect of their individual life stories and experiences.  We guide them to write in their own voice and language, from their own personal perspective.   Later in the spring, we’ll offer specific suggestions and advice about essay writing in this blog–especially for rising seniors who might like to tackle a draft during summer vacation!

Our program provides active and thorough support during the essay writing phase–while emphasizing the importance of the senior’s integrity as a writer.  We are careful not to engage in heavy proofing and editing; these tasks belong to the student.  (Please see our September 30 post for more about our philosophy in this regard.)

As a group, our seniors generate excellent essays.   Admission officers look forward to reading MB applications every season; they regularly compliment our student writers.

A brief statement from the Common Application: 

The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice.  What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores?

Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)

The prompts:

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

by Helen Scotte Gordon

Made for March break: by an MB graduate

Rebecca H. at a local bookstore with her recently published book

Rebecca H. at a local bookstore with her recently published book

If you haven’t had a chance to read Penelope by Rebecca H., MB Class of 2004, the ideal stretch of time lies ahead!

I’ll begin with a disclosure.  We are huge fans of “Becky” (as we used to call her) in College Counseling.  Jill and I have delightful memories of Becky during her college search.  She always brought high energy, laughter, hilarious stories, and a smart, sharp view of the world to our office.  As I remember, Becky was working on a novel in high school–so we are not surprised that she is now a published author.  We remain very proud of her.

Penelope is the funny and poignant story of a student’s adjustment to her first year in college.  The university just happens to be Harvard.

Back in January, a group of MB adults associated with a discussion circle called “Books and Beyond” read Penelope for our first meeting.  All of the participants loved the novel.  We noted Becky’s skill as a sophisticated satirist. In Penelope, our MB graduate pokes fun at course titles and class assignments.  With her keen sense of irony and humor, she explores the sociology of parties and undergraduate romance.  “Becky is a wonderful, wonderful observer,” noted one Books and Beyond member.  “But she is not a cruel observer.”

Everyone who participated in the Books and Beyond meeting related to Penelope in a different way.  Those who had the opportunity to attend a residential college felt Becky’s representation of campus life was perfectly on point.  “The dining hall is such a scene in college,” confirmed one individual during the discussion.  Another member felt that students accepted to college should read the novel as a preview of undergraduate life and its complicated layers–including roommate interactions and communication with parents! “It’s a book about your first moments out and away from your family,” summarized one person.

Penelope is fabulous satire.  It offers a contemporary  look at academic and social life on college campuses.  But in the words of one Books and Beyond organizer, “It’s just a fun book.”  (For much of the novel, I laughed out loud at least once a page.)

Not surprisingly, I think of “Becky” every time I pick up my copy–and remember her career at MB.  She had a great vocabulary and studied Chinese at an advanced level.  (Jill recalls her complete fascination with Jane Austen.)  Becky sang beautifully–including some opera.   She played field hockey and knew a huge amount of trivia about American presidents.   Becky adored fashion and wore cool stuff every day.

We’re excited about her future projects.

by Helen Scotte Gordon

Wise wordsmithing from a senior

A senior who was deferred under an early decision program shared this well-crafted sentiment with me.   I like and admire the symmetry it contains.

“I am dejected that I wasn’t accepted, but I’m elated to not have been rejected.”  –a member of the Class of 2013

The expression of disappointment and emotion is powerful–but so is the proclamation of  a silver lining!  (Seniors who were deferred under a fall or winter early deadline are currently being reevaluated by admission deans.  Students will be notified of a final decision in late March or early April.)


by Helen Scotte Gordon