Is It Better to Start University in September or January?
If you’re thinking of starting university, you’re on the right path. Deciding when to apply and start university is a whole other debate. Although most traditional students prefer to start university soon after they graduate high school, the road to higher education can be completely different for international and non-traditional students. International students may have to consider visa applications and standardised tests while adult students may need to account for work and family commitments before they can start taking classes. Additionally, universities have particular terms when they accept new students.
Many universities in the United Kingdom and Europe have two main student intakes – September and January to accommodate the varying needs of students. However, does one intake have advantages over the other? Read on to learn more.
- Not all universities have two intakes
The number of intakes a university has depends on the programmes offered and the university itself. While most universities offer a September start to their programmes, they do not always offer a January intake. It is always worthwhile to do your research on the programme and university you want to apply to in order to make sure that they offer more than one intake. Overall, if you are planning on beginning your studies in autumn, then you should be alright.
Deadlines for the September intake vary by country, but admissions typically start well in advance. For example, in the Netherlands, the process usually opens in September/October the year before the course starts with final application deadlines by May. If you are an international student, it can be a good idea to start your application as early as possible so that you have ample time to finish other paperwork like visas etc., well in time for the beginning of your programme.
Entry criteria for online programmes differ a bit, and so do the application deadlines. This means that applying for an online programme does not require planning and preparing as early as a year in advance. Therefore, it is recommended to check the application deadlines rather than worrying that your decision of studying needs to be postponed by a year.
- Acceptance rates are higher in September
As a general rule of thumb, the September cohorts are larger which means that the chances of getting accepted in the university of your choice are higher. However, this can be university specific, you may need to do a little research on this front for your course.
- Class schedules can vary
Classes are typically scheduled with the academic year starting in September in mind. This means that many of the basic classes for a particular degree programme are offered in autumn. Joining in January can put you at a slight disadvantage as your classmates may be a semester of classes ahead of you. However, some universities do factor this into their scheduling, so it is a good idea to check with a university if they offer a spring intake.
Orientation week or freshers week is something you don’t want to miss. The week is packed with activities that get new students used to the academic life. Universities use this week to give students all the information they need to succeed, including course schedules, tutors, workshops, assignment flexibility, grading, and more. It’s not all serious though, orientation week is a great time to get to know other students in the university, learn about different clubs and societies, job opportunities, and more.
- Job opportunities and assistantships
Recruitment fairs or campus recruitments are usually scheduled according to the September intake. If you have opted for a two-year course of study, like a master’s degree, campus recruitments would be scheduled for the second year. In such a scenario, those who have started in September have a slight advantage over the students who started their programme in spring as they will have completed three of their semesters and have more to show potential employers in terms of projects, leadership roles etc.
On campus job opportunities as well as professor assistantships usually follow the September academic year. Professors also typically plan new research to start at the beginning of the academic year and prefer to hire assistants when they are beginning their research. This means there are more on campus job opportunities or assistantships available in autumn compared to January.
- Extracurricular activities and leadership
Being involved in extracurricular activities and having leadership roles in clubs can look great on your CV. Starting in fall means you are no longer a new member of a club by the time elections roll around. If you want to join a club to participate without the burdens of leadership, then when you join doesn’t really matter.
Overall, starting your journey in September does offer more advantages than the spring term. If you are a parent, then September can be a great time to start your own academic journey along with the start of a new school year.
If you are considering a shorter programme like a certificate or diploma, many universities offer multiple intakes throughout the year. Whatever you decide, what’s important is that you take that all important step to further your education.
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