The Fall sem window = from late August to December or early January whereas the Spring sem window = from January to May.
The debate between when to study abroad – fall or spring semester – is slightly overvalued in a few countries. Every student will eventually need to work hard, irrespective of the semesters abroad.
There are many advantages of studying abroad during the fall, but there are some misconceptions too about studying in the spring semester.
It is encouraging to see high enrolments at universities abroad during the fall sem – the more, the merrier! But please remember that acceptance rates are university specific so, by any chance, rejection during the fall does not imply you can't choose the spring sem; instead you should opt for it without squandering time and doing nothing (or something).
Most courses on offer during the fall sem are pre-requisites for the ones offered during the spring sem, but if you are confident enough that you can easily catch up with the modules when you apply for the spring sem, just go for it! These small things should not be considered as roadblocks to your studying abroad during the spring.
It is not true RAs/GAs/TAs offered are maximal during the fall sem and minimal during the spring sem. Assistantships depend on both your academic profile and the number of research positions available under each faculty.
Most US universities have a requirement for the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) which is open to Grad students after a semester during the spring sem and after a year for the fall sem candidates.
In the UK the placement cycle of most universities starts from October, and in the US it is open throughout the year. While fall sem candidates will have the advantage of attending campus interviews, chances are if you opt for the spring sem, you will easily figure out what sort of companies visit your campus and will be visiting in future.
In countries like the UK, one advantage of choosing the spring semester is you will receive visa extension for 18 months whereas it is 15 months if you choose fall sem, which means you will have additional time to search for a job or plan ahead.
Moreover, a visa rejection does not depend on which sem you apply for but on your overall profile and, most importantly, how you perform during the visa interview.
Financial aid is not restricted to any particular sem candidates because admissions officers evaluate each profile before giving any financial aid.
Spring break abroad will give you a lot more chances to travel, compared with the fall, and let you earn more through part-time jobs.
The motive of this article is to stress on the importance of both fall and spring sem, not just merely compare and definitely not to dishearten students applying abroad for the spring sem.
It is up to the students to decide and plan well (not simply waste months thinking the fall sem could be more advantageous).
Do not forget ‘Spring is the time of plans and projects’ – Leo Tolstoy.