Is It Too Late To Apply for College?

Man thinking with book in hands
August 28, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/4/22

When is it too late to apply for college? This article will tell you everything you need to know about late application submissions!

Applying to college is a meticulous process that comes with a long list of tasks. One of the most stressful moments, aside from praying that you get the offer you want, is finishing and submitting your application on time before the deadline.

No one wants to hand in their application late. Finishing an application already takes enough time and energy, but submitting after the deadline will make things much more complicated. 

But what happens when you miss the deadline? What can be done to remedy the situation? And most importantly, when is it too late to apply for college? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more.

When Is It Too Late To Apply for College?

In almost all cases, colleges have deadlines for submitting applications. An application deadline is the last day students can apply. Because a school often offers different types of applications, including early and regular applications, there are multiple deadlines you can apply for. 

And, of course, each school has a different deadline. Therefore, it is heavily recommended that you check the specific dates of the schools you are applying to. Generally speaking, however, the deadline for the regular application is usually the latest one for students starting in the upcoming fall term. 

For applicants that plan to start school in the Fall term, the deadline for regular application usually lies around December to January of the same year. However, it can be as early as November or as late as March. 

But what happens after all the deadlines have passed?

If You Miss The Deadline

Missing deadlines is almost never a good thing and should be avoided in almost all scenarios. More often than not, once it’s past the deadline, the application is closed, and schools won’t receive any more new submissions. You will either have to find an alternative application option that is still open, or simply wait for next year.

Many schools are quite strict when it comes to application deadlines. The due dates are usually final, and accommodations are uncommon. Therefore, many people believe that missing the latest deadline for application options means it is too late for applications. 

However, there are still potential options for students to take to submit their applications without having to wait for next year. For example, some schools may extend or re-open applications, or consider you to qualify for admission. These depend on circumstances, if even possible. 

If you could not submit your application before the deadline, your best option would be to find any information about late applications. The best place to start would be the school’s official website. If you can’t find anything that helps you, contact the admissions office. They could provide any options that are still open.

Another possible solution is to contact a department of your high school that specializes in helping students with college applications. Your guidance counselor is an example of someone you could go to for possible solutions about applying after deadlines.

Therefore, when answering the question “is it too late to apply to college,” make sure to explore all your options. If you are unable to find the help you need, then it might be too late to apply to that school in this admissions cycle. 

Rolling Admission

When it comes to deadlines, one kind of application option that you should pay attention to is the rolling admissions. This is a type of “first-come-first-serve” application. Application for rolling admissions usually has no deadlines because the school receives and reviews applications and releases admission decisions on an ongoing basis. 

Therefore, you are welcome to apply anytime, and the college admission committee will begin reviewing your profile once you’ve submitted all the required documents. As a result, the date you get your admission decisions depends on when you’ve submitted your application. 

Rolling admission is not too commonly found for freshman applications who are finishing or have finished high school, but it is still possible for some colleges. Once again, doing your own research is your best friend. 

Furthermore, rolling admission does not mean that you can apply as late as you want. If open spots in a class or a program fill up, rolling admission will be closed, and you could lose the opportunity to apply via rolling admission. Even though rolling admission technically has no deadline, you should still apply as soon as you can.

Colleges With Late Deadlines

Although regular application normally ends around December to January for most schools, there are actually quite a few schools that open their application during the spring and sometimes even the summer. 

This usually happens when schools are looking for people to fill in any remaining open slots in the Fall. Challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have made colleges especially lenient towards extending application deadlines for those that might need it. Even though some will cancel the extension of deadlines, many schools still provide openings for late applicants. 

One place to go to when searching for late application openings is the National Association for College Admission Counseling, also known as NACAC. This is a non-profit organization that publishes information about schools that open applications after May 1st, the “college decision date.” The deadlines shared can extend well into summer. 

What To Do If You Are Submitting Late

Colleges operate on their own timelines, so they can be flexible with admission periods if they want to. When you submit after the application deadlines, it is advised to stay in close contact with the school’s admissions office. 

Because you are not submitting it during normal windows, the application reviewing process can be a little different. You should check up on whether or not they’ve received your application, and frequently take note of whether or not they’ve released your decision.

As for financial aid and housing options, you may get worse deals than you would if you submitted your application prior to the deadlines. But colleges will offer the best options available and help you select the best choices you can make depending on your circumstances.

FAQs: Is It Too Late To Apply for College?

In short, for many colleges, once the deadlines have passed, you can no longer submit an application. However, this does not necessarily mean that it’s too late to apply for college. If you have more questions, take a look at our answers to these common FAQs!

1. What Month Is Too Late to Apply for College?

There’s no one specific answer to this question, because each college has different conditions for applying after deadlines for conventional application periods. As mentioned before, some schools still accept applications after all deadlines are passed. 

Regular applications are usually the last round each year for normal applications. Deadlines for regular applications can land between late December to early March. Once those deadlines are passed, you would have to apply through rolling admission, or application under special conditions, if either is available. 

2. Does It Matter How Late You Apply To College?

Yes. The later you apply, the less likely your application will be accepted, as open slots for a program or class have gradually filled up as time passes by. Even if you’re submitting before the deadline, it’s better to submit it as early as you can, just in case you run into any situations that might cost extra time. 

3. Does Applying Late Hurt Your Chances?

As mentioned before, once the application deadlines all pass, the later you apply, the less likely your application will get accepted.  

But regardless of whether you submit your application before or after the last deadline, if you submit your application late, you might have completed and submitted your application in haste. This is awful for your portfolio quality and, by extension, your chances of getting admitted. Thus, the golden rule is to finish everything as early as you can.

4. What Universities Accept Late Applications?

Universities that accept late applications are very prone to change each year, because accepting late applications is something very situational. It is tricky to give a list of colleges that give out late applications. 

That being said, you can always look for online resources, such as school websites and organization websites (like the NACAC) to know more about which schools accept late applications. If the internet doesn’t help, you can just contact the school you’re interested in and get them to answer all your inquiries.

5. Are There Any Extra Fees For Submitting Late Applications?

This depends on the school. Some schools charge a penalty fee for applying after deadlines. Others let you submit your application without requiring anything additional.

Final Thoughts

So, is it too late to apply once you miss all the deadlines? Well, yes and no. In essence, missing application deadlines is not a good thing. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost! It is still possible that your application is accepted in some schools, so don’t give up and keep your eyes peeled sharp if you don’t want to wait for next year.

Therefore, even though it’s extremely important to finish and submit your applications in time, there are still chances for those that didn’t get to finish things early enough. However, it should be emphasized that such late applications should only be viewed as an absolute last resort. Students should apply as early as possible to maximize their chances of getting the offer.

Remember: if you want to maximize your chances of getting admitted, submit your application as soon as you have fully prepared your documents and profile.

Late applications should be treated as a last resort, rather than a legitimate application option. If you tried your best, but still happened to miss the last deadline of applications, there may still be chances. These chances are not guaranteed, but a possibility nonetheless. Best wishes moving forward!

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