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Across the country, college students are now preparing to go back to school whether in person, online, or through a hybrid format. Traditionally, the school year or the academic calendar begins in the fall and ends in the summer. While most students choose the fall to go to college, it is not the only option. So what’s the difference between starting college in the spring and fall? What are their upsides and downsides?
Starting College in the Spring
- Spring Semester is less overwhelming
Students usually graduate from High School around the end of June, and enrolling in the Fall semester could be overwhelming. The fall semester starts in August, so this leaves you very little time to prepare and organize for the big move.
Choosing to start college in the spring will give you more time to prepare and adjust before you begin college. The Autumn months before college starts is an excellent opportunity to regroup, keep up-to-date, train to be independent, and even travel. Most importantly, you can take advantage of the time to gain valuable experience through internships here and abroad. This is an excellent way to build an impressive resume and earn credits before you get into college. In the end, the few months before college will make you more college-ready when the first day of school finally comes.
- Smaller class size
Spring classes typically have a smaller class size than the fall class. Orientation and class size are smaller, therefore, more manageable. Spring intakes usually receive individual attention from advisors and mentors. A smaller class size means more chances to engage and bond with your peers. It is a perfect opportunity to build your network.
- Scholarship opportunities
Contrary to what people believe, spring intakes have equal access to scholarship opportunities as the fall intakes, even with less demand. In fact, some colleges offer financial assistance, scholarships, grants, and special spring tuition rates for the spring semester. The best way to know more about this is to inquire with the financial aid office to find the best financial assistance for your circumstance.
- You can still graduate on time
Enrolling in the spring semester will not affect graduation. You can still finish the required coursework on time and graduate with everyone else. Yes, this could be a bit of a challenge, but proper planning and taking a few extra courses in at least one semester will make this possible. Graduating on time is entirely doable.
However, if you finish the eight semesters, you have the option of graduating mid-year. Most colleges hold a small mid-year graduation ceremony for graduating students. The larger and more traditional graduation festivities are held at the end of the academic year. Spring admits can either graduate mid-year or still walk in the formal commencement ceremony at the end of the academic year.
- Arriving on the campus late
One of the biggest reasons many students still squeeze in everything they have to prepare for the Fall semester is that they are worried about arriving late. The Spring Semester begins in August, which means you will be arriving on campus in the middle of the year. Those who enrolled in the Fall would have had time to adjust to the demands of college and would have had the chance to make friends. You may even experience impostor syndrome.
- Limited options for housing
Since you are moving to campus in the middle of the school year, you may not get your choice of on-campus housing. On-campus housing is typically offered on a first-come, first-served basis. While you can still find a place, you might not get your first choice since most desirable accommodations are already occupied.
- Membership quotas in clubs and organizations
Most clubs and organizations on campus have quotas in terms of the number of their members. Arriving on campus in the spring could mean that your target organization might have reached its membership quotas. While this could be a major downfall for many, you can still join in the following semester.
Starting College in the Fall
- Excitement abounds
Choosing to enroll in the fall semester means that everything is new and exciting. You have done the first step into getting a college education, and the fall semester marks the beginning of the school year. It offers a fresh start to every student and a chance to explore college life to make new friends, engage with your peers and start building your network.
Since everything on the campus is new, you get every chance to choose what clubs and organizations to join. College means a fresh start for most students. It is best to experience life on-campus by joining various extra-curricular activities during the first few months in college.
- More course offerings
The fall semester usually gets a higher number of enrollees. Colleges ensure that they offer enough classes to accommodate every student they admit in the Fall. Naturally, they open and offer more classes to cater to their enrollees and to split up students into different classes. You get to choose from more class offerings across the various courses when you enroll in the Fall.
- Football season
Fall means football season! Huge football fans enjoy how the fall semester lets them experience the football season. Sports fans will not regret enrolling during the fall season.
- Perfect weather
The weather may be a factor depending on your school of choice-whether you will go to college in the East or West. Generally, fall weather is considerable better since it is leading towards winter. Walking to class under the perfect cold and hot air mix will create an ideal college experience. Plus, the scenery in the Fall with the leaves changing colors throughout autumn is a delightful scene.
- Better options for housing
Fall admits to getting the first dibs on-campus housing since you arrive on campus before everyone else. Excellent accommodations are still vacant and ready for occupancy at the beginning of the school year. You get to have the freedom and more choices for on- and off-campus housing.
- You get vacation days
The fall semester typically begins in September and ends in December, giving you more vacation days! You can go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with family during the Fall, and a few weeks after that comes winter break towards the holidays. Come October, the school will fly by fast, and it’s the end of the semester before you know it.
- The high-school-to-college transition could be tough
Going to college straight out of your high school graduation can be stressful. You get only a few months to get ready for the big move. On top of getting all your requirements organized, you need to sort and pack your essentials before heading to college. This can be overwhelming for most incoming first-year students, especially for individuals spending time away from home for the first time.
- Classes will be overcrowded
The fall semester is still the default semester for the beginning of the school year. Naturally, most students choose to be admitted during the Fall. This would translate to more students enlisting in the most in-demand courses on the campus. A larger class size means fewer opportunities for one-on-one interaction with the professor.
What the Numbers Say
Entering college during the Fall Semester has always been the norm. Consisting of four semesters, colleges take in students between September to December.
Colleges and universities also accept students and applicants during the Spring Semester. Would-be college students can choose to enroll during the spring and start their college education in January, which will go on until April.
In the 2020 fall semester, about 19.4 million students began their academic life in various colleges and universities in the United States. The number of enrollees during that time was 8% lower than in fall 2010, during which enrollment was at its peak with 21 million students. While there has been a significant decline in the number of enrollees, this is understandable because it was during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Students shifted to distance learning with 73 percent, or 14.1 million, were enrolled in at least one distance learning education course.
On the other hand, in Spring 2020, when campuses worldwide closed due to the pandemic, the shift to remote learning did not hurt enrollment. In fact, most of the students maintained the same enrollment intensity even when they were pushed to continue their studies at home. Data remained consistent in recent years and even following the year 2020.