January Admission

Melissa Goldin, Publisher

Senior Heather Winegrad applied regular decision to UR, the most selective school on her college list. She wasn’t even sure she would be accepted — waitlisted, maybe.

But when she saw a big envelope chock full ‘o future waiting for her, she knew she was in.

And she was. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. Right?

The letter inside informed Winegrad that she’d been accepted to UR.  But it also contained a twist.

January admission.

“I was just horribly confused by the whole thing,” she remembered.

January admits typically apply to the University as high school seniors for admission into that fall’s freshman class but, upon receiving their acceptance letter, are informed that they can enroll only that spring.

“They’re regular applicants who don’t quite make the cut to be in that initial fall cohort but have something to bring to the table starting in the spring,” according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick.

While January admission may offer some unexpected benefits, there are oft-ignored effects of being a January admit which warrant discussion.

 

Janu-why?

Every year, due to a larger number of undergraduates who study abroad in the spring semester and those who graduate early or late, there are roughly 50 to100 fewer students enrolled at UR in the spring than there are in the fall. In Jan. 2006, in order to fill these spots, the University began accepting a small group of students to begin their freshman year in the spring.

The number of students who choose to accept January admission has increased over the past three years. From 2011 to 2013, the number of students who chose to accept offers of admission for the January semester rose from 14 to 25, according to UR’s Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Mark Wells.

 

A rough start

But what happens once these students get to UR?

“Everyone’s scared to go to college, but it’s really scary moving in mid-year knowing that everybody else has already gotten used to it,” Winegrad explained.

She cites her freshman hall as integral to her acclimation at UR. The hall, Winegrad remembers, was already close-knit when she arrived — a reality she believes was a blessing and a curse — she felt left out at first but ultimately enjoyed the sense of community.

Although January admits usually find their place at UR eventually, there is still some discontent about the ease of acclimation.

“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement,” senior Jay Ricciardi, also a January admit, said.

The acceptance letter January admits receive has been tweaked over the years, according to Burdick, based on questions directed to the Office of Admissions. Winegrad believes there are still some holes. Even though UR won’t be able to eliminate the “shock factor,” she says, the letter could provide more information that is not available anywhere else — what deferred admission is, for starters.

Winegrad explains that this is especially important because there is scant information about January admission on UR’s website. In fact, a search for “January admit” only brings up one mildly relevant piece of information. “Deferred admission” turns up similar results — that is to say, nothing useful.

Ricciardi feels it would be helpful to mention the possibility of January admission in the application process because most people who receive the offer don’t even realize it’s an option.

“It was a bit difficult, but I’m getting used to it,” freshman Jack Yu says. Yu started a Facebook  page for this year’s January admits, which he said helped him get to know people.

Many January admits have academic concerns as well.

“Absolutely,” Ricciardi responded when asked if he had any problems transferring credits he earned at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) before coming to UR.

Due to this delay, he is still technically a member of the Class of 2014, not 2013: a problem considering he is about to start the second semester of his senior year.

“I mean, I’m graduating in May,” he said. “That’s happening. I hope they realize that.”

If January admits don’t earn college credits in the fall semester of their freshman year, they can overload once at UR or take courses during the summer to catch up and graduate in seven semesters. Those who choose to stay for the full eight are put directly in the graduation year of the next incoming class. This means that there are no shades of gray in the classification system, and these students are put at an unfair advantage when going through basic motions like registering for classes (they have to register as a freshman three times), or entering the housing lottery (twice as a freshman).

It also becomes an issue of identity.

“I’ve learned that ‘class-year identification’ is very important to some of our students, more so than I had realized,” UR’s Director of the College Center for Academic Advising Marcy Kraus said.

 

Something different

Before shipping out to UR, some students choose to take classes at another school, some decide to work, and others think more outside the box — or the country.

Winegrad was off to Italy as a first semester freshman, participating in UR’s study abroad program in Arezzo.

“It was terrifying,” she remembered. “Leaving my parents at the airport was really difficult.”

Winegrad feels the program was essential to her success at UR.

“I feel like had I not gone on the Italy program and still had deferred admission, I would not have been as comfortable,” she said, noting that the people she met on the program became her first friends at UR.

Ricciardi stayed a bit closer to home during his first semester, taking classes at WPI, but still put a deposit down at UR in case he changed his mind.

Turns out he planned well.

WPI is geared more toward engineering, but Ricciardi quickly realized that he wanted to go down a different path. He’s now a double major in English and film and media studies.

Since he’d already been the new kid at one school, coming to UR was like a fresh start to a fresh start.

 

Febs

Middlebury College, in Middlebury, Vt., also accepts students for a deferred start. The difference between Middlebury’s program and UR’s couldn’t be starker though.

Middlebury actively encourages students to choose February admission. The college began accepting incoming freshmen, nicknamed “Febs,” to fill spots in on-campus housing, like UR. In 2006, the program was made completely voluntary and Middlebury currently enrolls 90 to 100 Febs each year.

“The Feb program at Middlebury is, I think, distinctive,” Middlebury’s Director of Admissions Greg Buckles said. “It’s been around for decades.”

The main difference between Middlebury’s program and January admission at UR is the sense of community that exists among Febs.

“There was a lot of crying,” Jordan McKinley, a member of Middlebury’s Class of 2014.5 (yes, you read that right), said of the day she received her acceptance letter, adding that the decision made her “seriously consider going to a different school.”

But she didn’t. Thank goodness.

“From the moment I stepped on the Middlebury campus, I’ve not only not regretted coming here, I have been so happy that I didn’t come in September,” she said.

UR President Joel Seligman, according to Burdick, has inquired about the possibility of expanding the January entrance pool, similarly to Middlebury, but as of right now there are no plans to do so.

 

Mixed feelings

January admission is certainly not something to be ashamed of.

“Many [January admits] end up being some of our most successful students,” Burdick said.

And yet, some students are torn.

“I do feel like I missed out on quite a bit by being a January, but I am not unhappy about anything,” Ricciardi said of his college experience.

Freshman Christina Cheng wishes she could have started in the fall simply because it would have been easier to be on the same footing as everyone else, but she is ultimately happy with her decision to attend UR.

Despite any difficulties, Winegrad is proud to have escaped the quintessential first- day-of-college narrative, which she calls a “common” story.

“I’ve got something completely new,” she said. “I’ve got something completely different.”

Goldin is a member of the class of 2013 and a January admit.



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