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More colleges asking freshmen to delay enrollment


Monday, April 22, 2013

The tension level is high for students awaiting college acceptance letters. However, after the long wait, the fat envelope from a first-choice college may bring mixed emotions. According to the New York Times, a growing number of schools are encouraging incoming freshmen to begin their studies in the spring as opposed to the fall.

Tough choices
For some schools, accepting students for only the fall semester can be a gamble. Freshman-year attrition can result in substantially lower student populations during the winter months. Therefore, to ensure a steady stream of tuition income, increasing numbers of colleges are accepting a select group of students for the second semester to make up for those they will lose during the first semester, or before the academic year even begins. Some schools allow incoming freshmen to choose whether they begin their studies in the fall or spring, while others specify when students begin enrollment.

However, the practice is not always beneficial for students or schools, according to some education officials.

"Often the letter says, 'We encourage you to enroll in another school and take core-related classes,'" Tom Weede, chairman of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told the news source. "Well, at the other school, if you want financial aid you have to be a full-time student. The school that takes you doesn't know you're just going to be there for a semester. So it creates a built-in retention problem at a moment we're calling for more accountability and more numbers about outcomes like retention."

Blessings in disguise
Although some students are inevitably disappointed by colleges that want them to begin their classes in the spring semester, it can actually be advantageous in some instances. According to Valerie Strauss, writing in the blog post, The Answer Sheet, on Washingtonpost.com, colleges that adopt this policy can often admit students with lower grades or test scores than those admitted in the fall. As many schools are concerned about their enrollment statistics, which are based on fall enrollment figures, admitting students with slightly lower grades in later semesters allows these schools to admit students that truly interest them without negatively affecting the college's standing in national rankings.

In addition, some students may benefit from this approach, as it gives them a longer break between finishing high school and preparing for college.

"For some kids, the later admission option is a good one," Ms. Strauss wrote. "They can take a break from school but know they have a place to go. The system works best when the school has a separate program to help orient new freshmen, just as it does in the fall."

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