In a world of uncertainty prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, colleges have had to be nimble and flexible to meet student needs. The good news for prospective students is that flexibility extends to the application process at many schools.
While May 1 has long been the traditional decision deadline across higher education — even earning the name “College Decision Day” — there are always exceptions. Many colleges extended decision deadlines in 2020, some as late as September due to challenges for applicants prompted by the pandemic. And while many returned to the May 1 deadline this year, numerous schools continue to encourage applications after that date.
A list of colleges still accepting applications released by the nonprofit National Association for College Admission Counseling shows schools with deadlines stretching well into summer.
These schools are a mix of public and private institutions of various sizes and categories. Large National Universities and small National Liberal Arts Colleges populate the list alongside various regional offerings. Though the vast majority of the colleges on the list are in the U.S., international options are also available.
“The NACAC College Openings Update provides options and assurances for students who have not yet found a college to attend this fall,” Melissa E. Clinedinst, director of research and grants at NACAC, said in a news release. “Because of the extraordinary disruptions of the past year, many terrific institutions are still seeking students for fall enrollment. Seeing this resource may help ease the college application stress that many students are experiencing.”
Traditionally, NACAC has released this list of college openings after May 1, but this year it was published nearly two weeks early. That’s because there is high demand from institutions still looking to fill seats, NACAC says. More than 250 NACAC member colleges were listed as still accepting applications as of publication, with more to come as the database is updated daily through July.
The pandemic prompted colleges to break with tradition during the 2020 and 2021 admission cycles. Many went test-optional, shifted campus tours to a virtual format or placed COVID-19 restrictions on such visits, and made other changes as needed. Given this flexibility, admissions professionals say prospective students getting a late start shouldn’t be deterred.
“This is the best time to go to college,” Lynn Barnes Jr., senior vice provost for strategic enrollment at the University of Texas at San Antonio, wrote in an email. “Plenty of financial aid and scholarships available — the pandemic has not impacted this; many schools have extended deadlines and make it easy to apply; a variety of course modalities (face-to-face, online, hybrid) make it a very flexible environment for students, really accommodating just about any type of schedule.”
What to Know About Applying to College Late
In a traditional admissions cycle, students often wait months to hear if they got into a college. But that pace accelerates later in the year as colleges that are still accepting applications into the summer look to fill classes before the fall. Colleges operate on their own timelines, with some making admissions decisions within 24 to 48 hours and others taking several weeks.
“The most selective schools may simply shut off their online application while other schools will keep it active and anticipate late interest from students,” Jenn Winge, dean of admissions at the College of Wooster in Ohio, wrote in an email.
“Once students submit the application, they should contact their school counselor to ensure supporting documents arrive promptly. Then, students should call the admissions office to share their interest and learn about next steps. Many schools will want to know why the student is applying after the deadline and will take this opportunity to learn more about their college search process,” Winge says.
Applying beyond the traditional deadline may also mean students have to expedite actions on their end.
“Outside of some of the most selective institutions many of us are still accepting and working with applicants,” Harvey Werner, director of undergraduate and international admissions at Loyola University New Orleans, wrote in an email. “Since the timeline between now and the start of the fall is much more compressed, students should be ready to move more quickly on action items and be ready to be much more responsive.”
Financial aid and housing options are still available at many colleges, but those may vary depending on the unique circumstances at each school. Some may have earlier institutional aid deadlines, or applying late may limit housing options.
Still, “There is no significant disadvantage to students who apply late,” Janelle Kilgore, vice provost of strategic enrollment management at the University of North Dakota, maintained in an email.
“Students who apply late for admissions may not get their first (residence) hall preference but will still be paired with other new freshmen students. UND’s Scholarship Central application closed for new students on March 1. Some college or academic department-specific scholarships have been awarded out, but we still have other federal and state aid for students. The students will however, be eligible to apply on October 1 for the following academic year,” Kilgore says.
But students should recognize that each college is unique and check with school officials for specifics on financial aid and housing, as well as any other questions relating to the application process because the answers can vary greatly across the board.
Applying to College During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus presents new challenges for admissions professionals and prospective students alike. Admissions officers say that significant disruptions to the admissions cycle have limited in-person meetings with college officials and high school counselors, causing some prospective students to miss some deadlines or fall behind on their college applications.
Additionally, experts say it’s been harder for families to get to know colleges given the limitations on campus tours. But prospective students shouldn’t let these limitations become restrictions, say admissions pros, who encourage applicants to work with their high school counselor for support throughout the process and to reach out to individual colleges with specific questions.
“At this point I would encourage a student (to) make a connection with their assigned admission counselor at the institution and that person can best guide them on the timeline they should be aware of and of course the process they need to complete,” Werner says.
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College Application Deadlines That Extend Past May 1 originally appeared on usnews.com