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With 2016 midyear class, looking at merits of the program

Published: January 17, 2013
Section: Features

As the midyear class of 2016 is welcomed to Brandeis, the option of enrolling as a midyear student is expanding across the country. According to the College Parents of America Association, universities see midyear students as an opportunity to stabilize their student population throughout the year. As students go abroad, transfer and drop out, midyears are a refreshing new population of students who are eager to learn.
Andrew Flagel, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment, agrees that at Brandeis it is the level of enrollment balance that is essential. “Brandeis has more students that study abroad in the spring than we do in the fall, and a portion of our students graduate in December each year,” he said. “As a result, we have some enrollment capacity in the spring semester.” Midyears are a more popular option in small liberal arts colleges. Some schools such as Colby College insist their midyears go abroad in all-Colby student groups for that first semester, while others like Brandeis allow their midyears to decide freely.
Students insist there are upsides and downsides to being a midyear. Due to Brandeis’ strong academic standing, most midyears are still attracted to the school, despite the delayed starting time. “It was the best school I got into,” said Lizzy Chalfin, a class of 2015 midyear. “I wanted a challenge in college. I also wanted a career in social policy, which Brandeis focuses heavily on.” Ben Lasserre, class of 2014 midyear, also defines Brandeis as “a strong academic school.”
What gives a student midyear status is highly controversial. “When I was a midyear, we were told that Brandeis hand selected midyears because we were outgoing students who would be able to easily get involved on campus halfway through the year,” says Chalfin. Yet, she mentions, “Not everyone believes this. Some people say that we have lower test scores.” Lasserre mentions that this is a labeling choice he’s “been curious about, so I’ve asked around.” After speaking with an admissions officer, Lasserre says he discovered that “a midyear is someone with a lopsided application,” a student who may excel in some categories but be weaker in others.
Flagel also confirmed this, saying, “We also work with a number of students each year in both fall and spring who we believe have exceptional potential to contribute to Brandeis, but where some academic concerns or statistical profile anomaly makes it challenging to admit them to the semester of their choice. At that point, we will discuss whether the student might have an interest in being considered for admission to a future semester.”
The main complaint midyears seem to voice is that they are too quickly pushed into the swing of an already functioning campus, making it hard to make friends who are not midyears. Chalfin describes that “at first it was overwhelming because everybody at school already knew each other and we didn’t.” While Lasserre says, “I felt relief finally being on campus,” he too admits that “the downside to being a midyear is the difficult social matriculation.” Chalfin speaks on how midyears are forced to accumulate to Brandeis very quickly. “We were the only ones on campus for the first few days which was fine, but suddenly there were other students and classes started so quickly … [It] felt a bit daunting.”
Lasserre believes that the midyear housing on the Brandeis campus is a mistake. “I found, mostly due to being housed in the Village, far from the other first-years, that it isn’t until you get into club life that you really start meeting other people.” Chalfin argues that getting involved with other students is difficult, even with Brandeis’ attempts to integrate the midyears. “The winter fair helps midyears find ways to get involved on campus. However, it is not nearly as big or well-represented as the fall fair. I wouldn’t say it’s hard to get involved as a midyear, but it is definitely more difficult.” To avoid being stuck in the “midyear bubble” Chalfin detailed midyears’ attempts to get involved in sports, clubs and Greek life in order to make new friends.
Being a midyear also has its advantages. Lasserre describes that being accepted for the spring semester actually encouraged him to come to Brandeis. “It made Brandeis more attractive to me … having the opportunity to study in London in my first semester is not something you can get just anywhere. It wasn’t scary, because having been on the London program, I already had a strong group of friends.”
It is also clear that Brandeis is welcoming to the midyear class. “Everybody on campus is really excited about midyears, willing to help them find their way to classes and get them involved in the campus social life,” says Chalfin.
Lasserre mentions, “It seems Brandeis clubs and events have an insatiable appetite for new members and volunteers,” allowing students to become involved no matter what semester they arrive. Flagel boasts of Brandeis’ Orientation Leaders, saying “Brandeis offers a wonderful mid year Orientation led by our spectacular Orientation Leaders. In addition, more than 10 percent of our students start at the mid-year, so it’s a very robust community. From my experience here so far, Brandeis students who start at the mid-year often are some of our most engaged and involved student leaders.”
While Chalfin admits she was not happy about being a midyear student, she now loves it and Brandeis as a school. “If you plan out your classes well and try to get involved on campus by sophomore year you are very well adjusted.”
Midyear students find a friend base is mainly other midyears. This can be seen both as a drawback, given lack of diversity, but also as a benefit. “Midyears have an instant bondage just by virtue of being a midyear. I think it is a good thing because it is wicked easy for midyears to make close friendships with other midyears,” said Chalfin. Lasserre also said that his two closest friends were midyears in his grade.
Despite their unorthodox introduction to school, many midyears form friendships that last. As midyear classes grow across many universities and Brandeis welcomes the class of 2016, it remains true that a Brandeis student is a Brandeis student. In describing midyear applicants, Lasserre says, “All the while [these students] still [have] a potential to fit in to the Brandeis student body.”