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Is a dream college worth waiting for?

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When she applied to 13 colleges last year, Carly Chase thought she was wise to all the possible responses she would get: deferment, early acceptance, regular acceptance, or rejection.

But when she opened up the envelope from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., - her top choice - she thought, "Oh, that's a new one."

Ms. Chase had applied for regular fall admission. But the letter stated that her enrollment at Skidmore's campus would be delayed until January. In the meantime, the school suggested, Chase might like to study in London in the fall.

At first, that didn't seem like good news. "Just the concept of being so far away for four months took me out of every aspect of my comfort zone," says Chase.

But she was not alone in her dilemma. A growing number of incoming freshman are being offered second-semester admission as universities aim to stabilize enrollment. At most schools, registration typically takes a dip in the spring when many students graduate mid-year, transfer, or study abroad. Delayed admission is a way for universities to keep every dorm bed full.

But it's a tough sell with students. Most high school seniors are ready to fly from the nest in September. The prospect of staying home as their friends leave is unappetizing for recent grads.

So some schools are finding creative ways to entice incoming freshmen to accept delayed admission.

"Colleges are jockeying the margins to get more students," says David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "It's all about creating an edge in students' minds and an awareness that the university presents an alternative to regular admission."


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