After receiving over 300 preliminary study abroad applications, the Office of Off-Campus Study (OCS) said that the sophomores wishing to study away during the 2010-2011 school year are equally distributed between the fall and spring semesters.
The preliminary application was created this year so that OCS could anticipate a potential imbalance and persuade students to switch semesters if necessary.
Around 270 sophomores submitted a preliminary application expressing a preference for which semester they would like to study abroad. Director of OCS Stephen Hall said that the margin between the two semesters was quite small.
"Spring semester has slightly more [applications], although they are both in the 130 range," he said. "Fall is in the mid 130s; high 130s for the spring. And we got 30 to 35 for the full year."
OCS expected an imbalance in favor of the spring semester among students in the Class of 2012 planning to study away. That imbalance occurred for the Class of 2011, causing problems in course enrollment and housing.
Hall cautioned that, since the application was non-binding, the numbers could change between now and the final deadline on February 22, 2010.
"This is all a little provisional... as people are still adjusting their plans," he said. "We are happy, though, since it looks like it will work out."
According to Hall, OCS expects that fewer than 300 will ultimately apply.
"I suspect some students are putting in a pre-app because they are not sure if they want to go study away, and so they are keeping their options open," he said. "I expect that, in a normal year, we should receive 260 to 280 at the regular application deadline."
"Also, it may be that some of the pre-apps are coming from students who are considering studying in the summer and may end up choosing to study away then," he added.
Hall did not hazard a guess as to why the numbers were balanced this year. But he did say that OCS had helped convince some students to choose fall semester.
"I heard students in this office say to me, 'I know [picking fall semester] will make you happy, and I'm considering either semester because either one will work in my plan for the classes I'm going to take over the next couple years,'" he said.
Woody Mawhinney '12 said that he was planning to study abroad the fall semester due to athletic commitments, and the urging of OCS validated that preference.
"I think what made me decide to study abroad in the fall was that I row in the spring and if I choose to ski next year, I need to be back for race season," Mawhinney said. "I also like the atmosphere in the spring when the snow melts and everyone is out enjoying the quad. What the [OCS] said didn't determine what time of year I wanted to go abroad, but rather it reinforced my decision."
Even if an imbalance emerges at the regular deadline in February, OCS won't force students to rearrange their plans.
"I don't think we will ever plan to compel students to switch semesters," Hall said. "But we will certainly ask them to take a serious look at switching."
One of the few downsides Hall sees to the early application is that it compels students to decide on a major and find an advisor in only their third semester at the College. Yet he did not consider this a substantial issue.
"For some students it adds a little bit of pressure to decide their major in the middle of their sophomore year," he said. "I was surprised though by how many students already know [their majors]. It does shift some of the burden onto faculty who don't really know students they might be advising."
However, Hall noted that the preliminary application will continue to be used in the future.
"The general aim and timing of it is something we will reproduce," he said.