Last Updated: July 10, 2021
Fall and Spring Semester: An Overview
Candidates applying to colleges are often confused regarding the different semesters offered. The three different semesters offered by universities are called the Summer, Fall, and Spring semesters and they have been named based on the seasons of the year. While two of these semesters have four months each, the third one has a total of three months in all according to the academic calendar.
The Fall and Spring semesters are the only semesters where colleges offer admission to candidates. This is due to the diverse nature of the applicants during different times of the year and the number of procedures they have to complete in order to get admission. The duration for the release of results, obtaining certificates, transcripts, etc. take time and can impact which semester the candidate can enroll in.
Explaining the Three Semesters
The three semesters offered by universities in the US are Summer, Fall, and Spring semesters. Although named after the seasons of the year, their duration is separate from that of the seasons. The four main seasons
in the US are:
- Fall months - September, October, November
- Winter months - December, January, February
- Spring months - March, April, May
- Summer Months - May, June, Jul, Aug
There are only three semesters
in the colleges. Their duration is different from that of the seasons.
- Summer semester - The Summer semester is usually 3 months long starting from the month of June and going on until the end of August. The Summer semester is often optional for candidates and is generally used by candidates to do internships and other jobs that can aid them in their education. Students who study during this semester will often be able to obtain a certificate for the same.
- Fall semester - The Fall Semester generally has a total of 4 months in all and is one of the semesters where colleges are open for taking in students. The fall semester spans between the month of September to December.
- Spring semester - The Spring semester is also open for new applicants. It is also a 4 month semester that usually starts in January and goes on until the end of April.
This is a general breakdown of the semesters and they can span a few weeks on either side. Most students apply for the Fall intake as their Undergraduate program finishes in June and Fall semesters begin in September which makes it convenient for enrollment in colleges unless they take a break from the typical pattern for specific reasons like work experience or other personal issues.
Comparing the Fall Semester and Spring Semester
Candidates who wish to apply for courses in the US will often choose one of the semesters according to their convenience rather than the benefits of enrolling in a particular semester. This is due to the strenuous processes involved in the admission application. Most candidates will be looking to go abroad for their higher studies making them wait for their results and original certificates. The time duration candidates have to wait for receiving these documents can vary from country to country and even within a country it can vary from institution to institution. The processing delay of their results will by extension cause a delay in the visa registration.
Most often, candidates will aspire to apply for the Fall semester since this will not make them lose a year and will offer them enough time inside the new campus to know the place better and adjust to the surroundings before their summer break. But though this is the ideal scenario, most candidates will not be able to make it for the Fall semester and will end up applying for the Spring Semester by when all their documentation would have been completed and they will be able to travel with no other concerns.
The other factor that candidates will have to consider is, while all colleges open applications in the Fall semester, a few many colleges do not open admission applications in the Spring Semester. The candidates who are looking for specific courses in particular universities will have to ensure that they are offering a Spring intake for the said course. Opting for the Spring semester, if it is available, offers candidates enough time to prepare for examinations like SAT, GRE, TOEFL, or IELTS according to their requirements.
Pointers on Fall and Spring Semesters
As mentioned above, the choice of a semester cannot be a life-changing aspect while being an international student as long as the candidate is otherwise prepared to study and excel in their course of choice. Objectively, candidates who join in the Fall semester might seem to have an added advantage over the students in the Spring semester but the added advantage only comes into play under rare circumstances since students plan on only doing their part and ultimately in a classroom, it will be a team spirit that matters rather than competition. The pointers comparing Fall and Spring semesters are-
- Colleges often offer a maximum number of courses possible in the Fall semester. Due to constraints like the number of faculties available in certain departments and their schedules, the Spring semester often receives a lesser number of courses in comparison. As long as the candidate has done their research regarding the course they want and if it is being offered in the Spring semester, this won’t be a problem for them.
- Financial Assistance and On-Campus job opportunities like being a TA or RA are provided under specific conditions. While there is adequate financial assistance provided in the Spring semester, it is lesser than the number provided in the Fall semester. This could also be because of the lesser number of courses that are being offered thereby also having a lesser number of students who need financial assistance. On-campus jobs often have conditions like the candidate must complete at least a year before they apply for the post. This can be a little tricky for students who apply in the Spring semester but if they are willing to wait out, they will also be presented with the same opportunities once they have crossed a year in their course.
- To be involved with a student organization, the Fall intake would be a more suitable option especially if the student is keen on winning a prestigious position within the organization. This is because the new leaders are always elected at the end of the Spring semester. By joining in the Spring semester, candidates will seem like they don’t have enough time to showcase their skills.
- Universities require the students to have been enrolled for a minimum of 9 months before applying for internships outside the college. This would pose a problem for Spring applicants as they would not meet the eligibility criteria for the internship held in the Summer following their admit. However, they will be able to do part-time jobs if they so wish to earn extra money during the Summer-break and they will be able to apply for internships in the years that follow.
- Job opportunities are offered to candidates in their second year and by then candidates who joined in the Fall will have completed 3 semesters and those from the Spring intake would have completed only 2. This provides candidates from the Fall semester to have an added advantage over the others. But at the end of the day, the overall profile and academic excellence will be the factors that matter during the job interview.
- In matters like issuing the F1 Visa, the semester the candidates applied to does not matter in the slightest. The overall profile of the candidate and other requirements will be the only factors the process is dependent on.
- Some universities offer courses in the Summer Semester (which is of shorter duration). Depending on the amount of coursework the candidate has completed, they will be able to get credits for these courses. Students generally try to get internships during the summer to get real experience. Some students also prefer to do P/T jobs to make some money for tuition fees etc.
Positives of Fall Intake & Negatives of Spring Intake
Just as there are two sides to an argument, there are different views regarding the benefits of joining either in the Fall semester or the Spring Semester. Understanding both merits and demerits of the semesters will be beneficial in making the decision regarding the candidate’s future course of study.
- Students admitted in the Spring semesters may be grouped in a few of their classes with Fall semester applicants who have the advantage of one semester over them. This may be a disadvantage especially while choosing project partners.
- The number of sources for financial assistance which a student can obtain is much higher in the Fall semester when compared to the Spring semester. The on-campus jobs and TA, RA positions usually open up during the Fall semester intake, and preference is usually given to students who have finished at least one year in college and since the candidate would have completed only 6 months of college at that time, they will be at a disadvantage.
- The biggest advantage of the Fall intake is the number of courses on offer. Most colleges offer a myriad number of courses in the fall, a comparatively smaller number of courses during the Spring semester.
- To be involved with a student organization, the Fall intake would be a more suitable option especially if the student is keen on winning a prestigious position within the organization. This is because the new leaders are always elected at the end of the Spring semester, by joining in the spring semester one will not have enough time to show their real potential.
- Universities require the students to have been enrolled for a minimum of 9 months before applying for internships outside the college. This would pose a problem for Spring applicants as they would not meet the eligibility criteria for the internship held in the Summer following their admit.
- Job intakes will be lesser for Spring applicants in their first semester as all the available posts would have already been taken by the Fall applicants because of their Semester advantage. The acceptance rate for a particular course is a University-specific trait and does not depend upon whether it is a Fall or a Spring admission.
Fall Semester vs Spring Semester- Conclusion
While applying abroad, though initially, candidates might feel like they have to apply for a particular semester, this might not be how things turn out to be. It is often better to leave an open mind regarding the semester one will be able to enroll in and focus on the procedures of getting there and fitting in so that the candidate will be able to excel in their field of study. Ultimately, the semesters do not matter but the effort that the candidate puts into studying is the only thing that matters.