Is It Too Late to Apply to College?

In spring, the race is on and the pressure builds for high school seniors to decide which college they will attend. Of course you knew that last September 1 was the date you could have begun submitting college applications. But here you are in February – or later – and you are still unsure of where you want to go. Or maybe you didn’t make it into your first choice schools. Perhaps you needed to pull up your grades during your last semester, and suddenly it’s summer.

Is it too late to apply to college? The answer is No. Several hundred colleges continue to accept applications and admit students until the start of the fall semester.

This is the time to look at colleges known as “Late Application” or “Late Deadline” schools. These schools either have later application deadlines than most colleges, or are looking for additional students to meet their freshman class enrollment goal. Most college application deadlines are March 15, and accepted students make their decision and submit their deposits by May 1. Colleges know at this point if they can accommodate additional applications from potential students. You will still need to meet GPA and ACT/SAT requirements established by the college, and expect chances for scholarships and financial aid to be slim. But there is hope!

Though the media hypes how fierce the competition is to get into selective colleges, there are actually hundreds of colleges that have a hard time filling their freshman classes. The last few years of our recession has made that task even tougher. It is at these institutions where you can find your higher education opportunity.

Here are seven resources to help you discover these “late deadline” schools:

  1. NACAC Space Availability Survey
    On May 1, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) publishes their “Space Availability Survey: Openings for Qualified Students” on their website. In the May 2011 survey, there were more than 280 out of 1,200 member four-year schools on the list that were still trying to fill their freshman classes. The majority of schools, 71%, were private colleges, 29% public universities. All of them still offered financial aid and 97% had on-campus housing available. The colleges and universities on the list continue to update their statistics over a two month timeframe, until July 1, when NACAC takes the list down from their website. The opportunity does not end here, though. There are another 1,000 schools not represented in this survey that may also have openings. If there are particular colleges you are interested in that are not on the list, contact their admissions offices directly.
  2. Common Application’s College Search 
    The Common Application is used by over 450 colleges in the U.S and in several European countries. Would you have thought that you could use the Common App website to search for schools that are still accepting applications? You can. First, go to the Common Application website home page. Then on the Member Colleges and Universities tab, pull down the menu and select College Search. On the Search web page, select “First Year Student”, then “Fall 2012” and finally enter today’s date in the “Deadline on or after” field to produce a list of institutions that are still accepting applications.
  3. College Board’s College Search
    The College Search capability on the College Board website can identify which schools may still be accepting late applications. Use their College MatchMaker function to search more than 3,900 4-year colleges and universities. Choose “4-year” for the type of school and under the Admissions tab, select “More than 75% accepted” to ferret out potential colleges. You can also narrow the list by searching in certain states or using other criteria, but start using the broadest criteria first.
  4. Peterson’s College Search 
    There is a list of Late Deadline Schools on Peterson’s College website, some of which continue to accept applications until the start of the semester.
  5. Schools with Rolling Admission 
    Check with colleges that have rolling admission policies. If they are still seeking students to reach their freshman class enrollment goal, they will consider applications and make decisions as they are received.
  6. Public Universities and Community Colleges
    You may find that many public universities extend the time for accepting applications, and most community colleges continue to accept applications through the summer. These local, 2-year schools are a great way to save money but make sure that you choose courses that will transfer to your eventual 4-year college. The Illinois Articulation Agreement website, iTransfer, can help you identify these courses. If you start your college career at a community college, it is wise to know at that time the school and program to which you plan to transfer. Planning ahead can make this transition seamless.
  7. High School Counselors
    Your school counselor can be a resource if you have landed on a wait list or if you decide to appeal a rejection. They are typically familiar with colleges and admissions intricacies, so tap them as a resource in your college quest.

You may be feeling anxious because your plans for college are still up in the air. It happens. Learn about the colleges and programs offered to make sure they are a good fit for your intended academic major and career goal. Visit the campuses and talk with admissions counselors, who may have more time for you than during the busy fall semester. Take time to assemble a quality application package for each college you identify. Make sure your essays sound like you and reflect your goals and aspirations. Be able to explain why the school would be a good fit for you, and the personal and leadership qualities you have to offer. Submit your transcripts and test scores in a timely manner. Check and double-check your application materials for typos, mistakes and omissions. Submit your application package. Then, wait for that email, text, or hefty envelope with good news from the college of your choice!