It’s April, and for many high school seniors, that means that the highly anticipated finale to the college admissions saga is just around the corner. But when that big, thick envelope arrives – the one that means yes – students might find themselves a bit surprised by what’s inside. Increasingly, according to a recent article in the New York Times, colleges are inviting students to wait a little longer and enroll in the spring. If you find yourself in those shoes, it is important to keep in mind that schools have all kinds of reasons for admitting students late. Moreover, many schools have implemented special programs for springtime latecomers that may end up putting them at an advantage over the average fall starter.
In fact, I was in those same shoes back in 2004. When I ripped open my big, thick envelope from Middlebury College, I was so overcome with excitement that I almost missed the fine print saying, “Welcome to the February class of ‘08.5!” Huh? ‘08.5? What does that even mean? Am I going to graduate from college through some portal in time – a black hole between 2008 and 2009 that means I’m halfway there but halfway not? What a letdown! I couldn’t help but think that my late acceptance meant that I had barely made the cut and that I would be entering college with a cohort of other scrappy kids who barely managed to trudge their way past the admissions panel.
But I continued reading and as it turns out, Middlebury College actually handpicks one-sixth of the students in the entering class to make up a smaller, unique class of students who embody the spirit of Febness – leadership, entrepreneurship, and taking risks – a spirit already evidenced when the decision is made to take the road less traveled and join the Feb ranks. Most of the schools who invite you to play the waiting game have a similar reason for doing so – they want to fill the beds left by juniors studying abroad in the spring. Usually, that means you get to live in junior housing as a freshman!
So what to do if you find yourself back in the waiting game? First of all, congratulate yourself. You got in! Next, start thinking of all the awesome things you can do with that time off. You could live abroad, perhaps as an au pair. Or you could stick closer to home and continue your summer job into the fall, allowing you to save up more money for living expenses in college. Be an intern for a political campaign or participate in furthering a cause for which you have great passion. Take classes at a local school and get a jump-start on core credits. Explore a new hobby like photography or ceramics. Spend time with family and practice living independently. Perhaps the best thing you can do with that time off is to reflect and relax, because the next four years are going to be chock-full of experience, growth and learning.