Applying to College: Spring vs. Fall Semester

Fall is the most popular time of year to start college, and for good reason. Students have more courses to choose from at the beginning of the year. They can also apply for assistantships and internships sooner than spring applicants. Not everyone, however, is able to start school in September. For some students, it makes more sense to apply for the spring semester. Which term is best for you? Will you miss out on anything if you start college a semester late? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for each option.

Course Availability

More students start college in the fall, and that means more courses are available. Some of these courses are prerequisites to those that begin in the spring. Others start in the fall and run straight through the next term. Fall applicants don’t need to deal with this issue, but spring applicants do.

Depending on the school and the program, certain courses may not offer open enrollment for the second semester. Make sure to do your research before sending out applications. Reach out to the schools and find out what your options are. Keep in mind that there are also ways to get course credits ahead of time.

Flexibility

The main advantage of spring admission is its flexibility. If you can’t start college right away but don’t want to wait a year, spring makes for a good compromise. Spring applicants can spend the fall working, traveling, recovering from health issues, or doing whatever else they need to do. Plus, international students may want more time to practice their English-speaking skills before moving to the U.S.

Assistantships

Fall applicants have the advantage when it comes to assistantships. To qualify for a teaching assistant (TA) position for a class, applicants must have completed the course with a high grade. First year students can usually apply for TA positions during the second semester. Because spring applicants haven’t completed any courses yet, they’ll have to wait for the next hiring blitz.

A Second Chance

Colleges get so many applications that it’s impossible to start everyone right away. For this reason, students who apply for the fall semester are sometimes accepted for the spring semester instead. This situation is hardly ideal. However, if it happens with you, and the school you’ve applied for is your top choice, you may prefer to wait the extra four months. Check what the college offers for spring admits, such as a spring orientation program. You can still have a great first year even if you’re starting late.

Off-Campus Internships

If your heart is set on getting an internship, you’re better off applying for the fall semester. Students in the U.S. must complete at least nine months of college before applying for off-campus internships. This means that spring applicants can’t apply for a summer internship until their second year of college. However, that doesn’t mean your first summer has to be futile. You can still make your summer break productive, and that internship can wait until next year.

The best time for you to start college depends on your personal circumstances. Fall offers the most advantages, but spring is a great choice for those who need a little more time to adjust to college life.

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