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Starting College in the Spring

Monday, February 03, 2020

A growing number of students are receiving admission to sought-after colleges -- just not in the fall.

For years some northeastern elite colleges, including Middlebury and Hamilton, have engaged in an admissions practice offering a selection of students second semester admission. Midd "Febs"and Hamilton "Jans" share a mid-year enrollment calendar with a number of other highly-selective colleges and universities.

Same College, Alternative Path In

Today, students applying to a handful of schools on both coasts might see their admission offers contingent on an unanticipated timeline.  A sampling of schools and programs potentially offering applicants a later freshman start include:  

The Spring Difference 

Top-of-mind questions for second semester admits concerns the impact of a spring start on forging solid social connections. What will campus life be like for the new group joining established classmates who have been living and learning together on campus since fall orientation?

Students who begin college via the second semester option tend to report that their smaller cohort provides them with a more intimate, bonded social experience at their start of college. A strong January campus orientation program can serve to support those connections.  

Sometimes a later start incorporates a first semester international experience, the destination country compatible with the student's intended major. Participants bring these closer connections back with them to campus in January.

An organized program, such as the University of Maryland - College Park's Freshman Connection, offers spring admits an optional opportunity for a fall start, living on campus while choosing from selected classes. In contrast, other schools may leave the choice of fall programming entirely up to the student, potentially involving employment, volunteerism, or community college classes for credit. 

Cornell University's First Year Spring Admit (FYSA) program admits up to 50 students as "January freshmen," while recommending pursuit of enriching extramural involvements prior to arriving in Ithaca for spring semester.

The University of Southern California offers students the opportunity to pursue classes at affiliated American universities located in Europe where they may pursue classes for credit with students from around the world.

Regardless of the entry date, the premise supporting a January start is enrichment for the student prior to the start of college, bringing even greater anticipation and readiness for their educational experience.

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC and can be reached via

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