It’s that time of year when students are beginning to make their college decisions. When thinking about starting college, the fall entry is probably front of mind for many. Starting college in September (for every place other than Florida, where we start in August) aligns with our expectations. After all, we start the K-12 school year in the fall, so logical progression means college should as well, right? Plus, colleges often heavily feature fall in many of their admissions documentation, with many talking about their average fall academic profile or average fall class size.
But fall is not the only option for launching a college career. For many new college students, it may not even be the best time to start. Today, I want to talk about the many benefits of starting college in the spring or summer semester, which students often do not realize.
Opportunities and Benefits of Starting College in Summer
Summer is the most frequent alternative start for most students, and it’s a great way to begin your college journey. Benefits of starting college in summer terms include fewer individuals on campus, allowing newly enrolled students to receive more attention while they immerse themselves in a less hectic environment.
Additionally, some states – such as Florida – require that most students complete a certain number of courses during the summer. Starting at the beginning of the college journey is an excellent way to complete such requirements. Plus, some students are required to start college in special summer programs. These programs have many different names, from Summer Bridge to Student Support Services (which USF offers at the St. Petersburg and Tampa campuses).
Regardless of the name, all of these programs are designed to provide additional support to students who may not meet a college’s admissions criteria but otherwise show the promise to succeed. Furthermore, such programs may have special themes, such as leadership or first-generation assistance. They may also further enhance a student’s connection to their college community for special affinity groups. And participants in these programs often have some of the highest success and retention rates compared to other students. Clearly, starting in the summer should be considered if the opportunity presents itself.
Spring Is the New Fall: Benefits of Starting in Spring
In recent years, the spring semester has emerged as an increasingly popular way to begin the college journey. As with special summer opportunities, spring offers are often required for admission to a given college.
Some of these offers will require a student to successfully complete a certain number of community college courses before enrolling at their university of choice. Others may offer scholarships or arrange special housing at their university while the student takes classes at a local community college. In all cases, the benefits of starting in spring include the chance to establish a firm collegiate foundation prior to arriving at a university.
Exploring Transfer Options
Finally, there are the typical transfer pathways. Florida has one of the strongest transfer partnerships in the country between our community colleges and state universities. Transferring in Florida is largely seamless for students thanks to some of the convenient programs available:
- Virtually guaranteed admission to a state university for Florida College System (FCS) AA degree recipients.
- Special accelerated partnerships between certain FCS institutions to specific universities, (including FUSE, a transfer program between USF and eight Florida State Colleges).
The transfer option promotes timely degree completion, less debt, and swifter entry to the job market.
All Academic Roads Lead to Success
If you are offered an alternative college entry, please seriously consider it. Freshmen and transfer opportunities like these are designed to ensure that prospective students receive the best option for their particular situation. With that in mind, consider these offers with the same level of scrutiny as all others you receive. And when you have questions about a university’s alternate pathways, always reach out to learn more. You never want to assume that similar offers from different universities are the same.
Ultimately, what matters in the end is where and how you finish. A university that offers an alternative entry wants you to become part of their community and earn a degree from their institution. Don’t let the opportunities of an alternative pathway pass you by.
If you have any questions about USF’s alternative pathways to admission, including transferring or starting in the spring or summer, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. The USF Office of Admissions is available to discuss all your options and help you find your best choice for becoming a USF Bull.
About Serge W. Desir Jr.
Serge W. Desir Jr. is the director of Student Access and Support Services at USF's St. Petersburg campus. He enjoys helping students expand their academic and intellectual horizons and believes that knowledge not only contributes to a better individual but to a better society as well.