When Emily Vogel, an international relations and global business major started at USC in the class of 2016, she quickly found her way after making friends that were no different than her — except they were enrolled at USC five months before her.
The number of students with similar experiences to Vogel will soon be dropping in number. For the first time in years, USC plans to dramatically cut the number of students it admits for the spring semester.
For more than 20 years, USC has offered an average of 650 spots for spring admission, but that number is set to be cut roughly in half, according to USC’s Dean of Admissions Timothy Brunold.
The cuts to spring enrollment come after USC was surprised by a high number of spring enrollments over the past few years.
Spring admission started because USC found different enrollment rates between its fall and spring semesters. Spring enrollment was significantly lower because of students graduating early, late, or going abroad. As Brunold recounted, the University asked itself, “Is there a way that we can make sure that the University is using all its resources making sure it’s at capacity?”
Brunold said that spring admits are students who are deemed a good fit for USC but couldn’t be accommodated for the fall. Spring admission is used “primarily as USC’s waiting list,” Brunold said.
Brunold’s comments underscore a stigma that spring admits face. Many say they are perceived differently than students admitted in August.
Maya Nyquist, a sophomore majoring in psychology, worries about the stigma that she and fellow spring admits are different or somehow less qualified. It, “obviously isn’t true and I know from experience and my friends that some of them had a higher GPA than the average for our admitted class," said Nyquist.
The first-year student admission information on USC’s admission site only lists its fall admitted students’ GPA and test scores, excluding spring admits from the averages provided.
While USC advisors and officers who attend admitted student days throughout the country tell the spring admits that they are part of the Trojan family, the reality is spring admits are made to wait for the full assortment of student benefits.
Spring admits are not considered students until enrolled in January, so they don’t get a USC ID and can’t find USC housing until enrollment. Without a student ID, they are restricted from accessing campus at certain times, including locations like the University Village and the campus libraries — vital hubs for students.
For Nyquist, the most troubling issue related to spring admission was the lack of housing options. Housing issues compound social difficulties that spring admits face.
Although spring admits can apply for student housing January, Nyquist said, “a freshman can be placed with three juniors and that’s really intimidating and that’s not the normal experience that fall admits are getting.”
Brunold defends this decision by pointing out that USC doesn’t “treat spring admitted students as students until January.”
“There was an understanding that the practice needed to be in line with what the University’s intention was,” he added.
However, before 2018, spring admitted students were given a USC ID as a way to allow them to attend the school’s football games. Since then, USC has found a way to grant students access to the games without the use of an ID.
For spring admits who spend the fall semester taking classes at another institution, the university works with them to create an appropriate schedule of classes so that all the credits earned will transfer. For those who aren’t able to meet in person with an advisor, there is a link on the Undergraduate Transfer Credit Office page where “you can see if your courses have already been evaluated for transfer credit.”
Both these options allow spring admits to graduate within four years. The university also has a spring admission advisor, Jessica Frey Nielsen, who can answer questions for students to make the transition smoother.
Spring admits seem to share a common concern about making friends when they arrive on campus a semester later than most others. However, USC is trying to quell those fears by offering admitted student days, orientations and a convocation for spring admits so that they meld right into the community when classes begin. The university also creates a spring admit Facebook group to provide a place for students to connect.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Vogel said. “It was great because all of the other freshmen had a semester to figure out the ropes so that when I came in I was able to look to them for advice and guidance.”
Jackie Hollander, a sophomore communications major, said that being a spring admit provided her with a smaller community that was easier to navigate. “[It] made my transition to college easier,” she said.
“Spring admission is an option and it isn’t even great for students all the time because some students don’t want to do that,” Brunold said. But many students who have USC as their first choice are willing to wait to attend USC come the spring and begin their college career here no matter what the timing may be.
Nyquist said that she’s grateful for spring admission because she otherwise might not have been admitted to USC. But, she still thinks the school could do more to ease the transition.
“We were just kind of thrown in, and our orientation was just a few hours long,” Nyquist said. “I think I would do it again [but] there are a lot of things that I wish I could change.”