Spring admits in need of different treatment

It is widely known that USC offers spring semester admissions to students accepted into the university. Before coming to USC in January, these students began their college journey elsewehere and also make fantastic use of their time in place of a fall semester by working and traveling. They’ve declined prestigious admissions offers, including full rides to other institutions to come to this university. They’ve had to watch as their high-school classmates started the college adventure. They’ve explained for countless hours to countless people the enigma of their admissions situation. This process is not exclusive to USC nor is it contained to a small number of students. In fact, many of the brightest, most devoted, and most qualified students to ever come to USC started their formal classes just over two weeks ago. Almost every major is represented in the spring admission class, from history to business to astronautical engineering, just as it is reflected in the undergraduate body at large.

But being smart and committed, however, is just not enough. While it certainly is a privilege to attend this school, some members of our community routinely regard spring admission as lesser. Spring admits themselves often feel as if they are of an “other” sect. Despite the best efforts of the university, they have difficulty finding that school spirit found at the start of a fall. Spring admits don’t get football games, long sunny Los Angeles days or many peers to mingle with.

Many spring admits arrive at USC and discover that cliques have already formed. Additionally, academics can seem overwhelming, with large lectures full of unfamiliar faces. Despite what admissions brochures promise, being a spring admit has a stigma that is difficult to shake. I know this from personal experience.

It took almost a full semester at USC for me to feel fully part of the school and its culture. Today, I was surprised to learn that even USC staff members allow this mindset that to prevail. This afternoon, I had my foreign language class, a break from my heavy science load. Prior to class, I asked a peer about her experience at USC thus far, and I learned that she was having a difficult time finding her place. I assured her that it would come with time, as it had for me a year earlier. At the start of class, an Overseas Studies employee came and spoke about oppurtunities abroad; one of which was a program designed specifically for spring admits. I was shocked to hear him explain that USC has the process in place not to have a critical intellectual mass, but to boost its U.S. News ranking. “Spring admits typically have lower GPAs, but don’t tell them that,” the advisor said with a smile.

As humorous as it might have been to him, I was appalled. As valedictorian of my high school and a class of 2017 spring admit, it was personal. Not only was this a gross oversimplification of deciding who will come in the fall versus the spring, it had nothing to do with abroad studies. So, I spoke up and said, half joking, “That’s not true. I’ve met plenty of dumb fall admits.” Having heard me, the advisor offered a similarly joking half-apology.

Regardless of one’s intention, separative talk dampens spirits and discourages integration. Both fall and spring admits whom I’ve consulted agree: the statement, uttered by a representative of our university, is demeaning and unacceptable.

Simon Gottreich, Sophomore, biochemistry 

5 replies
  1. BostonTW
    BostonTW says:

    The writer is absolutely correct. USC games the USN&WR stats by admitting Spring admits while trying to convince them that there is just not enough housing, which is an unpersuasive excuse. For this reason alone, the USC Trustees need to gut the tactic immediately. Spring admits who are shipped off quietly to Europe like problem children are denied the assimilation process that all freshmen deserve, including beginning the academic year with their classmates, attending USC football games and engaging in other social and academic activities that are critical to the overall collegiate experience. I place the blame squarely on the senior USC administrators. USC has also exploded in undergraduate size — from about 15,000 when I was a student in the 1980s to well over 18,000, undeniably diluting the collegiate experience while exacerbating the perennial housing shortage. USC is fast resembling a large public university in terms of size and the way in which they treat all undergraduates. And yes, there are far too many transfer students, which alone will prevent USC from entering the “pantheon” of elite universities. USC never was and should not be considered a “land grant university.” Some administrators forget that USC is a private school with a high sticker price that warrants special treatment for all admitted students. The time to end Spring admission is now.

  2. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    As a spring admit who just got here this January, I am glad to see I’m not the only one who has felt this way. I agree with you that the stigma that comes with Spring Admission is difficult to shake. And although the university tries to create programs to integrate the spring student body into the rest of the population, they do not do such a sufficient job. Many programs separate spring admits from fall admits and it is like we are and always will be referred to differently. And as a freshman, I am not getting the whole dorm room and dining hall experiences which I think would have definitely helped to make friends. Great read I could relate to, Simon.

  3. b juardo
    b juardo says:

    As a transfer student several years ago (for fall), I felt neither excluded or included at USC. The students and people here weren’t aloof or unfriendly, but they certainly weren’t warm either; I don’t take it personal. You come in as a traditional student i.e. freshmen, then you have the opportunity to experience dorm life; make new friends with your incoming freshmen class; form or be part of your cliques; et al. But as a transfer student, it’s completely different.

    I think as SC’s prestige grows, it should close its door to transfers (yes, I know I sound ironic). The top private schools such as the Ivies and Stanford do this; they highly discourage jr. college or 4-yr. university transfers albeit they’ll make few exceptions. I think it’s because they lack the capacity for it, and I don’t think they want to be bothered by people who “cannot move on from getting rejected from their ‘dream’ or 1st choice universities.” So yeah, I hope SC follows suit. In the bigger picture, though I’m digressing a bit, if SC wants to raise its academic prestige/image, then it needs to stop worrying about winning a popularity contest (seeing how we measure up to UCLA; comparing our admit rates to theirs or other schools; our standing on the USNWR, etc.) Don’t be afraid to reject lots of applicants. Be the “bad guy” for the overall good of the institute. Don’t be soft.

  4. Emily Lin
    Emily Lin says:

    Two quotes from this piece:

    “I’ve met plenty of dumb fall admits.”

    “Regardless of one’s intention, separative talk dampens spirits and discourages integration.”

    I agree with you for the most part. But this is too ironic.

  5. Oscar
    Oscar says:

    Great piece Simon. As a sping admit (class of 2014) I can certainly relate. Compounding my situation was my status as a military veteran, if you can imagine that. I would be very interested in research and quantifiable metrics on the subject, as well as a recent survey….food for thought. Fight On!

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