So, you are one of those who has already appeared for the GRE and TOEFL and now you are wondering whether you really want to wait till the next FALL to apply?
I just want to mention here that, contrary to the myth, applying for the Spring semester is not a right or wrong call. Sure, there are people who prefer it and there are people who do not. You need to figure out what is right for you. Although, there are a couple of things we think you should consider before making that call.
One big difference between the two semesters is that since the Academic Year starts in August and ends in July, all universities are open for admissions for the fall semester but not all universities are open for admission in the spring semester. So, chances are not THAT bad. Generally, universities are not available for admissions in the spring semester for PhD candidates. Also, a lot of the top ranked universities generally are not open for admission for the spring semester either.
There is a lack of scholarship opportunities in the Spring Semester. If we think about it from the Universities’ point of view, they spend the entire year gathering money, so that they can offer the most during the fall semester. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to get a scholarship for the spring semester if you have a really high GRE score, but in most cases it is improbable. On the other hand, an advantage of taking admission in Spring is that by the time the next fall comes around, you are already a part of your respective department. Here is a little known fact: Departmental heads prefer awarding scholarships to students who are already a part of their department. Since you are already a semester old at that point, getting departmental scholarships becomes much easier.
Now, if you are someone who can afford the first semester’s tuition on your own, by all means, there is no harm in applying for the spring semester. The great thing about scholarship opportunities is that they knock on your door every semester!
Another difference is the time when you will be allowed to do your CPT. Let us talk about what CPT means exactly. So, there are two types of training periods/opportunities students can go for- Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training. They both are ways in which students with F-1 visa can work legally in the U.S. CPT is part of your curriculum, whereas OPT is generally opted for after you have finished your curriculum. Although every university has its own rules, most of them allow their students to do a CPT after 2 semesters. That being said, if you begin your Master’s in the Spring, that means you would have to finish your Fall semester to be eligible for a CPT. Since these trainings can be done in any semester, not just the summer semester or vacations, you can start your CPT in January!
Last but not the least, we need to talk about deadlines. The most common misconception about university application deadlines is that students can apply by the deadline – even if the deadline is in October! Wrong! Although most of the deadlines fall in the month of September, as an International student, it is not wise to wait till then to apply. We suggest that students finish their applications, at the latest, by August. What happens if you cannot avoid applying after August? Well, since it takes quite a while for the universities to process the documents sent with the applications, the university could defer your admission to the following fall semester. Another reason we don’t want to wait too long is that the visa procedure takes a while as well. For the university to send us the I-20 on time and for us to make sure that the sponsor’s finances are in order – takes quite some time. So, the sooner you apply for the Spring semester, the better.