It’s that long-awaited moment of joy for aspiring Trojans — a thick cardinal-and-gold package appears in the mailbox, signaling their admission to USC.
But when they tear it open and discover that they’re spring admits — and will start class a semester later than they expected — many students worry they might fall behind classmates or miss out on the college experience.
Now they have a new resource: the Spring Admit Ambassador Program. It pairs incoming students with current students who can share lessons from their own USC spring admit experience.
“A big concern when students get their spring admission decision is how they are going to make friends and graduate on time,” said Jessica Frey Nielsen, director of student development programs in USC’s Division of Enrollment Services. “The best way to ease that concern is to connect them with students who have successfully been through that process.”
Before they enroll at USC, these incoming students can call or chat online with one of several dozen current USC students. They can talk through issues important to the USC spring admit experience such as how to spend their fall semester, what to expect when they arrive on campus in the spring and how to integrate into college life. It’s part of a growing slate of resources for spring admits to answer their questions, boost their confidence and help them feel welcome at USC.
“The important thing to know is there is no right or wrong way to approach spring admission,” Frey Nielsen said. “There is a lot of freedom and choice, and our ambassador program has been great in terms of providing that student voice for our incoming spring admits.”
Enriching the USC spring admit experience
USC enrolls about 600 first-year spring admits each year. University leaders see it as a way to bring in more talented students as space opens up on campus in spring when other students graduate early, move into off-campus housing or join a study-abroad program.
But some spring admits feel hurt or worry that they aren’t as desired as students accepted for the fall semester. That’s not the case, said USC senior Evelina Godecki, who enrolled as a spring admit in 2016.
“You have to remember that the acceptance rate is so small here, you’re still such a qualified student,” she said. “There’s really no difference between you and a fall admit.”
Godecki felt blessed to have a break after high school and start coursework a few months later than others. She had been trying to persuade her parents to let her take a full year off before college, so spring admission was a good compromise.
Rather than hanging around her hometown of Somis, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, she spent fall in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji through an educational program. She volunteered on a farm, at a Buddhist institute and in a small village, helping her keep expenses low. The experience informed the advice Godecki now relays to incoming students as a spring admit ambassador: Stay busy before arriving at USC.
“The scariest part about being a spring admit can be the wait,” she said. “You’re sitting there for three, four months, hearing about everybody else’s experience in college.”
With admission locked in, USC spring admits can dream big during fall
Spring admits have numerous options to fill their fall semester. Traveling is a popular choice, and many students take advantage of studying abroad at programs in London, Rome, Paris and Lugano, Switzerland. Others take general education courses at a community college. Some find an internship or job to gain experience and save money.
For Ashna Chandra, opening her admissions packet from USC to discover she could only enroll in spring felt disappointing at first. But then the Saratoga, Calif., native realized it gave her the opportunity to study abroad — something she would have struggled to fit into her busy schedule as a computer science major at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
After speaking with ambassadors about their USC spring admit experience during a campus visit, she decided to attend John Cabot University in Rome during fall.
“They were so encouraging and said I didn’t have to worry too much about integrating into the USC community,” Chandra said. “They didn’t sugarcoat it, but they made it clear it wouldn’t be a huge and horrible transition. They definitely took away all my worries.”
Dozens of other spring admits also participated in the study-abroad program, and she remains friends with many of them. She also followed the ambassadors’ advice to get involved with student clubs and participate in Welcome Week activities, like an Explore L.A. trip to Santa Monica with other spring admits.
“Everyone here is so welcoming, but making the first move and just saying, ‘Hi, I’m Ashna,’ has been crucial to my integration into USC,” she said. “It’s worked out really well.”
USC spring admits gain insight from peers before enrolling
USC provides an online system that lets incoming students browse through profiles of USC spring admit ambassadors. They can review details like each ambassador’s major and hometown, along with information on how they spent their fall semester. Then they can request an appointment — usually via video chat — to talk through concerns before deciding whether to enroll.
Chevy Peschl says that most incoming spring admits she talks to are worried about struggling to fit in and find friends.
“It’s about a month, maybe, where you are feeling a little different, like you are painted blue or something,” she said. “But you get into the swing of things very quickly.”
It’s about a month, maybe, where you are feeling a little different, like you are painted blue or something.
Peschl, a human biology major who plans to pursue nursing, was the first student from her hometown of Stevenson, Wash., to come to USC since 1982, so she was unsure what to expect. After a study-abroad semester in Switzerland, she transitioned to campus more smoothly than expected. Students who start in August might have a few more friends by their second semester, she said, but spring admits soon catch up.
That’s been Rahul Reddy’s experience. The communication major from San Ramon, Calif., thought he might miss out on the freshman experience, but he has settled into life at New North Residential College.
“It’s scary to be one of the 500 kids who are entering into a class of 4,000, but it didn’t turn out to be that bad,” he said. “There were little hiccups like not knowing where to put your plates in the dining hall and feeling stupid, but now it’s fine.”
Reddy also worried he wouldn’t be able to graduate with the rest of his freshman class. He set up a video call with a spring admit ambassador and learned he could finish many of his general education requirements while studying abroad in London. His ambassador also studied in London her first semester, so she had plenty of tips to share about the experience.
“She was pretty real with me about parts that weren’t so great,” Reddy said. “I really appreciated that.”
Asked whether he had any advice for future generations of spring admits, Reddy emphasized that students look into their options for fall semester, as well as explore spring activities and clubs.
“Doing that research and knowing what you want to do on campus is a really great approach,” he said. “I’m definitely having a good time and enjoying myself and feeling more comfortable.”
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