Many students don’t think about deferring college till spring because the concept is foreign to them. Since they were 4 or 5 years old, school always starts in September. So it’s more about habit than anything else. They also feel that they are “behind” their other classmates and high school friends if starting in spring. Once you are on campus, no one knows or cares when you started. However, there are many benefits to starting college in the spring term instead of fall if needed.
If you just aren’t ready for college, then wait. Going to college before you are ready can cause a lot of issues once on campus such as lack of focus, poor grades, premature dropping out and changing of majors many times over. If needed, take some time to think about your future and your career in a “constructive” way that fall. One of the benefits of a spring start is that you are competing with fewer students for those required first semester classes and therefore, you are more likely to get them. Also, your orientation is smaller and you get much more personalized attention from staff and faculty about living on campus and choosing classes. If you feel that your credits are dragging, take a few summer classes to make up for the spring start. As I said, take advantage of the fall term when everyone else is away at school (September though December) in a constructive way by interning, working and/or meeting with professional in your desired field to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Then you can start in spring more confident about your choices. High school to college is a very big switch and some teens are better with change than others. Taking a semester off isn’t a cop-out, it’s a small choice for some families and students.
For those of you heading off to college this fall, I have a few suggestions for you (and/or your parents) that may save you a little money along the ways. Remember, you have 4 years ahead of you. Starting off on the right foot could mean saving a big chunk of change in the end.
Here are 5 easy ways to manage college expenses.
1) Leave the car at home. You don’t need it. Suspend the car insurance until the summer when you return.
2) Understand your meal plan options on campus. Sometimes colleges tier the plans. Find one that works for you. I see many families over spend on meal plans that don’t carry over remaining balances to the next semester. Be sure to ask.
3) Always buy your school supplies off campus. Much cheaper.
4) Get a part-time work-study job on campus. It’s convenient and if it’s an office job, they will probably allow you to use their computers, printers, supplies, etc. for your school work.
5) Take babysitting jobs off-campus. These positions are posted on job boards in the campus center or in the student employment office by local families. They pay well and the work is mainly done at night when the kids are usually sleeping, so you can get your homework done. Ask if you can do your laundry at their house in exchange for 1 free hour of babysitting. Trust me…it’s well worth it! You get paid and have clean clothes.
For more advice or tips, just ask!
My latest interview on college admissions for Varsity Tutors.
VT: How far ahead of time should a student begin working on his or her college application?
Carol: Families are starting the college search process earlier and earlier. I recommend that as a family you “start” the college conversation during the end of the sophomore year to gear up your teen for the junior year search. I use January of the junior year as the starting point. I find that telling families “slow and steady wins the race” helps them think through this process. We basically have one year to help you and your teen put his or her best foot forward, the finish line being December or January of their senior year.
VT: What are the best ways to go about selecting a terrific essay topic?
Carol: Look at a bunch of college essays from the year before to familiarize yourself with what the schools will be looking for. That way you won’t be surprised when you actually start your applications. As a rule of thumb, I recommend to students that they think about their best English paper. Pull it out, read again and remember why it was your best paper. Then, keep that in mind when writing the essays for the colleges you have selected. A lot of times, I find students becoming very conservative with their essays. Writing about what they “think” colleges want to see. I start with students by having them brainstorm; having them think outside the box when it comes to some of these questions, then create an outline, which will build into an essay. Don’t think a perfect finished product will happen in one session. You need to go back to these essays and reread, and rediscover. I guarantee the way your essay looks at the beginning of this process is not the way it will look in the end.
For more from this interview, go to: