Spring Admissions

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta


Despite constant nagging from his parents, Pratik missed the fall application deadline. Before his parents could get mad with them, he explained that universities have an admission entry in Jan and hence he has not lost one full year. Pratik is now applying for admissions to US universities for the January term. 

There are two points of entry for admissions at most US schools – Fall (August) and Spring (January). These schools work on the semester system. Some universities work on the quarter system and the points of entry in these schools can be August (fall), December (winter) and March (spring). Schools such as the University of Southern California and Syracuse University work on the semester system while Rochester Institute of Technology and Ohio State University work on the quarter system.

Most universities have deadlines of October 1st for spring admissions. This would give you enough time to prepare for your TOEFL and GRE, GMAT or SAT exams. Undergraduate students appear for the SAT and TOEFL and graduate students appear for the GRE or GMAT (MBA and business fields) and the TOEFL. Now is the time to start researching your schools and short listing the universities you want to apply to. Be sure to email the university and check the last date that they will accept applications for spring. If you apply by October, you can expect your admission decision by late November or December and finally apply for your student visa in early January.

Most US universities have a summer school option as well. A separate application is required for summer programs. There are usually no academic requirements for summer programs and universities will accept just about anyone, provided space is available. Summer sessions start in May and end in July or August and are divided in two parts – I and II. Students usually take 2 classes per session or a total of 4 classes during both the sessions. 

The US education system is designed so that students can take whichever classes they want at any point in their academic years. However, the system is much more flexible at the undergraduate level than it is at the graduate level. In most cases, students starting in spring can take classes which were offered in fall. Some classes are offered as sequences, for example, Math I and Math II. In such cases, you cannot take Math II in spring if you have not taken Math I in fall. 

There are several disadvantages of starting your schooling in spring. First, not all schools offer spring admissions. Hence your choices for admission are less. You may have to settle for a university which is less than desirable if you apply for spring. For instance, if you are an MBA student, only two or three universities in the top 50 are open for admissions in spring. (The University of Rochester is one such school open for MBA admissions in spring). When you are researching your schools, keep in mind that some universities offer certain courses in spring while allowing only fall entry for others. For example the Texas A&M University offers spring admissions for many programmes including undergraduate and graduate programs, but not for the MBA programme.

Another point to consider for admissions in spring is funding. Universities usually do not offer graduate assistantships in spring. The reason being - students awarded graduate assistantships in fall, graduate in May. Hence a vacancy for their position is for the next fall term. Hence, students are awarded assistantships in the fall term, which continue through the spring term and therefore students entering in spring, are not awarded assistantships.

If you start your studies in spring, and don’t take summer classes, you will graduate in December, whereas most of your batch mates would graduate in May. Career placement cells at universities are burning the mid-night oil for students graduating in fall and not spring as the number of students graduating in fall is greater. Hence, you could be at a significant disadvantage if you attend college in spring and graduate in spring. 

You may feel that starting college in spring puts you at a social disadvantage. Most students start their education in fall and make friends with all the new students. Students who start in spring, on the other hand, have fewer students starting fresh with them and hence have to work harder to make social contacts. Besides, if you start at an east coast college in spring, you can add the harsh winter along with other adjustment problems. 

Why then do students consider spring admissions? “Thanks to spring admissions, I will not waste a full year. Because of KTs in my college exams, I had no choice but to skip fall admissions. Now, that my KTs are clear, I don’t want to waste any more time and want to start my Master’s degree as soon as possible,” says a graduate engineering student planning to attend a US university in spring.

If you have the choice between fall and spring, certainly fall admissions would be more advantageous. However, if you would lose a year because of visa issues or because you could not apply in time, then it would make sense to attend a US university for spring. In the event that you are unhappy with your college choice in spring, you can even consider the option of transferring to another college in fall.

Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the USUKCanadaAustraliaSingapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.

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