Alternate Offers of Admission − Part 1

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: February 26, 2021

You pack up your car − suitcases, laptop, the five sets of sheets that your mom insisted you’d need – and are finally headed out to college! Out on the open road, excitement builds with each passing mile. Near campus, you roll down the window to inhale the crisp autumn air…no, wait…is that the scent of freshly-fallen snow? Or, a whiff of ozone from a recent summer thunderstorm? In what season, exactly, are you starting college?

The answer for most students applying to college is the fall, anywhere from mid-August to mid-September, depending on the school. They don’t imagine starting earlier in the summer or in January – and possibly on a campus other than the one to which they applied! Yet, this ends up being the case for many students.

In this two-part blog series, we’ll discuss some alternative offers of admission that you may receive – some of which you may be offered but cannot apply for, and others for which you can most certainly apply. Today, we’ll focus on various alternative admission pathways you may be offered without having applied for them.

Yes, you applied to start in the fall, but some colleges invite (read, “require”) newly-admitted freshmen to start either in the summer (usually late June) or in the “spring” (January or February, the traditional start of spring semester). This offer is typically extended to students who are admissible but whose applications aren’t quite as strong as those of fall admits, and often accounts for limited dorm space in the fall. These decisions are usually final, leaving no room for appeal. It often comes as a surprise when students receive these decisions, as they are not always mentioned on the application or website. Some examples of well-known schools that offer summer start – but for which you cannot apply − include Georgia Tech, NC State, Purdue, Clemson, Texas A&M, and even UC Berkeley. Other institutions, such as American, Brandeis, USC, Middlebury, Cornell, University of Maryland, and University of Miami, among others, may invite students to start in the spring. Some of these schools do allow you to indicate your willingness to be considered for a spring start on their applications. More on this next time, in Part 2.

What if instead of driving to campus, you stepped off a plane to begin college in Spain, London, or Florence? Occasionally, students are offered an alternate location in lieu of a university’s main campus. Schools like Northeastern and FSU may place you in one of their amazing international locations for the first semester, or, as with FSU, even give you the option of spending the entire year abroad. Other programs may admit you to one of their satellite campuses. In addition to FSU’s global options, students offered admission through Seminole Pathways may spend their first year studying at FSU Panama City before transitioning to Tallahassee. Penn State may offer admission to a satellite campus for the first two years under its 2+2 Program, and Purdue may deny a student admission to its main campus, but offer opportunities at its regional campuses, with the possibility of future transfer to West Lafayette. Still others may offer you an initial placement with a partner college, such as certain engineering, design, and construction programs that UF offers in conjunction with Santa Fe College; or Clemson’s Bridge Program, in which students take all first-year classes at Tri-County Technical College while living in great housing on Clemson’s main campus before “bridging” to full-fledged Tiger-dom in their second year. As with spring/summer start, these decisions are generally final.

Lastly, students may be offered a different academic program or even an online start. NYU, for instance, might offer incoming freshmen placement in its two-year Liberal Studies program, including opportunities for international study, before completing their bachelor’s degree at one of NYU’s schools or programs in their junior and senior years. Similarly, BU may admit students to its College of General Studies (a spring-start program, followed by a summer term in London); they’ll do a gap semester in the fall − 100 days are open for adventure! – and the balance of freshman and sophomore years on BU’s main campus in Boston. UF admits some students to its PaCE program through which students first complete at least 15 credits and two semesters through UF Online before transitioning to campus.

What should you do if you receive an admission offer different from the one you envisioned? While it’s natural to be confused and/or disappointed, understand that the college still wants to give you a spot in its incoming class. If it’s your “top choice,” do your research to examine the pros and cons. Maybe this college will remain your number one; maybe it’s time to consider other offers. In this era of hyper-competitive college admissions, these alternative starts are becoming more common – and they may just end up being a great match for a flexible, open-minded student!

What if you already find these pathways intriguing and would like to apply for them? In Part 2, we’ll cover a few of these options. Stay tuned!


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