With approximately 25% of students beginning college at a time other than the fall term (National Student Clearinghouse, 2012), the picture of the new student experience is becoming more fluid every day. Yet, many schools don’t provide customized support to assist with the differing considerations these students face.
To ensure that you are investing appropriately in the success of this sizeable (and growing) group, you will need to consider several factors.
In a recent online training from Academic Impressions, Chrissy Roth-Francis, director of new student services at UC Berkeley and Keith Lopez, assistant director of transition programs at Colorado State University, suggested best practices for meeting the needs of this special population of students.
An Incomplete Picture
Given the growing percentage of non-fall/spring admits, constructing programs and evaluating outcomes in a one-size-fits-all approach is obviously painting an incomplete institutional picture. One of the challenges to addressing this, however, is the lack of a centralized repository on resources and best-practice guidance. Roth-Francis makes the case for more focus on these students by highlighting the following areas with room for improvement:
- Institutional Data: Similar to transfer students, non-fall admits aren’t typically considered when assessing and reporting statistics on entering cohorts. They are also typically excluded from data measuring retention efforts.
- Databases: Information reported to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) largely consists of only students admitted in the fall of each year.
- Research Studies: There is a dearth of comprehensive professional research on non-fall admits. What little published material does exist is typically in the form of anecdotal newspaper articles, or cursory mentions within some books. No book solely on the topic of this student group exists as of this writing.
- Rankings: When reporting external data to rankings organizations (such as U.S. News & World Report), it is not mandated for institutions to report non-fall admits as part of their representative sample. The result is this student group largely not being representative of a composite report.
It Doesn’t End with Admission: Supporting Spring Admits Effectively
While offering spring admissions may increase institutional enrollment numbers, you also need to consider the impact on student success and retention. Bringing in many spring admits will only be an effective strategy for your institution if you also create a support system for these new students. After all, these incoming spring admits will not have had the opportunity to attend fall orientation or take advantage of other support available in the fall term.
Roth-Francis and Lopez recommend auditing the following:
- Retention Data: At what level are spring admits being retained, and how does that compare to fall start students?
- Demographics: What percentage of your spring admits are transfer students and where are they transferring from? How many are first-year students? International students? Do they live on or off campus?
- Orientation: What programming exists on campus to welcome new spring start students to campus? Does programming exist?
- Fees: How much does your institution charge for new students/orientation for spring? How does that compare to what students are paying for the fall?
Once you have completed your audit, ask some critical questions of your data. Are your spring admits getting the same programs, events, support, and opportunities—proportionate to their fees—that your fall admits are? Is this support the right kind of support for the demographics of your spring admit population? If not, it’s time to restructure your program to offer the greatest assistance and opportunities for all of your students.
MAKING A SPRING ADMISSIONS PROGRAM SUCCESSFUL
These are simply the first steps in a longer process to effectively design, deliver, and evaluate how Spring Admit programs are ultimately contributing to the retention/success picture at your institution. To learn more, take Academic Impressions’ online training, “Onboarding Spring Admits for Future Success.”