What To Do If You Miss The College Application Deadline

Worried student holding a help sign after missing a college application deadline
April 16, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/11/23

High school seniors have a lot on their plates: coursework, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities. Not to mention researching colleges and filling out applications, all while keeping your eye on application deadlines. 

There aren’t many worse feelings than the dread that seeps in when you realize you’ve sailed past a college application deadline without submitting yours. So what do you do if you miss an application deadline? First, don’t panic: you’re not the first student to miss a deadline, and you certainly won’t be the last. 

In this guide, we’ll ease your worries with a list of important deadlines for college applications and what you should do if you miss one. 

What to Do If You’ve Missed a College Deadline (7 Tips)

Tips on what to do if you've missed the college application deadline

Missing a college deadline can feel devastating at the moment. Stay calm and don’t panic; you’re not the first person to miss a college application deadline, and you’re not the last.

When you realize you’ve missed a deadline, it’s time to spring into action and plan your next steps: you have options. 

Contact the College’s Admissions Office 

Your first step should always be to contact college admissions offices if you miss your application deadline. Calmly explain your situation, and see their policies and if they would still accept your application past the deadline. 

When you reach out to a college admissions office, be prepared to explain why you missed the deadline. Just saying that you forgot about it is not your best option and probably won’t inspire the response you’re hoping for. 

Colleges have application deadlines for a reason, but if you encounter an extenuating circumstance that prevents you from submitting your application on time, you should let the admissions office know through a letter or phone call. You may need to mail your application or hand-deliver it to yourself past the deadline. 

If the college has policies that can bend to late applications, follow up later to know whether your application will still be considered and evaluated by the admissions committee. 

There’s no surefire way to know if your application will be accepted until you call and inquire: remember to have a well-prepared reason for why you missed the deadline. If the admissions committee decides to evaluate your application, be prepared to potentially miss out on first-come-first-serve housing or financial aid. 

Apply Through Regular Decision if You Missed An Early Application Deadline

Applying through regular decision when you were primed and ready to submit before an early decision or action deadline can be disappointing. Still, it might be one of your only options. Thankfully, you don’t have to jump through hoops and tick any other boxes to apply through regular decision. 

Take comfort in the fact that you have more time to spend polishing your application to perfection. While some schools have higher acceptance rates for early decision or early action, those applicants typically have incredibly robust applications. 

Spend the next few weeks reviewing your application and ensuring you’ve gathered all the necessary materials. 

Look for Colleges With Later Application Deadlines 

If you miss regular decision deadlines at the colleges you want to apply to without an excellent reason, there may not be much you can do to submit your application past the due dates. 

Thankfully, some schools have extended their application deadlines past the average window for regular decision applications. If you’re willing to switch trajectories and consider applying to other schools with deadlines that haven’t passed yet, this could be the right option for you. 

The College Board released a list of colleges with later regular decision application dates, ranging from January 15 to August 31. While many may not have been on your original college list, you can look into some of these schools and see if they would be the right fit for you. 

Consider Schools With Rolling Admissions 

Schools with rolling deadlines accept applications well past general regular decision deadlines. If you’ve missed a regular decision deadline in January, you may have until May or even later to apply to a school with rolling admissions. 

One thing to note about rolling admissions is you always have a better chance of acceptance if you apply earlier in the application window. Some schools have priority deadlines, meaning they prioritize applicants who submit their application materials by a specific date. 

However, you still have a shot of acceptance even if you’ve missed the priority deadline. Schools with rolling admissions accept students on a rolling basis until the class is full.

If you decide this is the course of action you want to take, you should immediately research colleges and see which ones suit your needs best. There are many excellent colleges to choose from, including Purdue University, the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, Rutgers University, and many more. 

You Can Transfer Next Year 

If you’ve decided to apply and got accepted into a college with an extended regular decision deadline or one with rolling admissions, understand that this doesn't have to be a goodbye forever to your original first-choice schools. 

After your first year at the institution, you can apply to transfer to any school you wish if it aligns with your passions and educational and career goals. 

Ensure your transfer application is compelling: maintain high college grades, get involved on or off-campus, and show admissions committees why transferring is the best move for you. If you want to transfer to one of the nation’s top colleges, you’ll need to ensure your application narratives are compelling.

Since you’ve been through the college application process once before, you can use your experience to create a new application that shows all the new things you’ve done in your first year of college to increase your chances of admission at any school you choose.

Consider Applying Next Term or Year 

Waiting to apply next term or year may sound like a cop-out if you were particularly eager to attend college right away. But that’s not the case. When you choose this route, you’ll have a little time to decompress after high school and pursue meaningful and formative experiences. 

A little extra time off means you can dedicate even more time to honing the perfect college application and boosting your chances of getting in the next term or year. 

Take a Gap Year Filled With New Experiences

If the school you were interested in applying to doesn’t enroll new students on a per-term basis, consider taking a gap year. If you decide this is the right option for you, don’t feel too discouraged about waiting a year to apply again. 

You can fill your gap year with meaningful experiences and activities to strengthen your application later. A gap year is an excellent time to try new things, figure out what you like and want to do, and have a little fun to boot. You can: 

  • Pursue an internship or full-time job in a field related to your interests 
  • Travel to new countries to gain a better global understanding 
  • Do more volunteer work for causes or charities that mean something to you 
  • Build your skills outside of the classroom: learn a new trade, how to play an instrument, or a new language

A gap year is an excellent way to build your skills and profile before applying to colleges again. If you decide that a gap year is right for you, gather all the materials or contacts you’ll need before you graduate high school and go off on whatever journey you have planned. 

For example, you either want to secure your letters of recommendation from your teachers or get their contact information to collect them at a later date, and talk to your guidance counselor and inform them you want to take a gap year. A bonus of taking a gap year is more time to take or retake the SAT or ACT – make the most out of your time! 

When Are the Deadlines For College Applications? 

‍College application deadlines are highly school-specific and depend on what program you apply through. Below we’ll cover deadlines for early decision, early action, single-choice early action, regular decision, and rolling admissions

Application Type General Application Deadlines General Admissions Decisions Dates
Early Decision I November December
Early Decision II January February
Early Action I November December
Early Action II Sometime following Early Action I January-February
Single-Choice Early Action November December
Regular Decision Late December through February March/April
Rolling Admissions Varies 4-6 weeks after application is received

Missing the College Application Deadline FAQs

Missing a college deadline is tough, but rest assured knowing you have some great options moving forward. If you still have questions, here are some common FAQs answered. 

1. Is There Any Hope They’ll Accept My Application If I Forgot? 

Colleges may accept late applications from students with truly extenuating circumstances: you went through a significant crisis, natural disaster, or any other situation far beyond simply forgetting a deadline. However, this all depends on each college and its admissions policies. 

If the only reason you didn’t submit your application on time was that you forgot, you can certainly still reach out to the college and ask if there’s anything you can do. Still, be prepared to hear a “no” and work toward your next steps. Numerous options are laid out above, so don’t feel too disappointed! 

2. Can I Get Accepted Through Rolling Admissions If I Miss the Priority Deadline? 

Yes, even if you miss the priority deadline, there is still a chance you can get accepted at a school with rolling admissions. While you have a better chance of admission if you submit your application materials before the deadline, as long as there are still seats open in the class, you have a chance of acceptance. 

3. Will I Still Get Financial Aid and Enjoy Other Benefits If My Application is Late? 

The answer depends on the school you apply to and what is still available for you past the application date. The reality with a late application is that you may miss some first-come-first-serve benefits, such as choosing your housing, financial aid, and more. Double-check with the school before you make any decisions. 

4. I Missed Early Decision/Action: Do I Have a Lesser Chance of Admission? 

Many schools offer early decision or early action programs for students looking to submit applications earlier. Most of these schools release data on early applications, and the acceptance rate is often higher among early applicants compared to the regular decision pool. 

However, early applicants tend to have powerful applications and display a high interest in attending the school they apply to. Don’t count yourself out quite yet if you apply through regular decision: just ensure your application is perfectly polished and stands out from the crowd. 

5. Can You Apply to Colleges After the Deadline? 

It depends – colleges may accept applications from students after the deadline if they are dealing with extenuating circumstances. However, policies on late applications vary by school. 

6. What Happens If I Submit My College Application Late? 

While the admissions committee may receive your late application, there’s no guarantee it will be reviewed. We recommend meeting the college application deadlines to avoid not being considered. 

7. Is it Bad to Submit College Apps on the Last Day? 

It depends; for example, submitting your application on the last day of a rolling admissions cycle means fewer (or zero) seats left. Many sources recommend applying at least one week before deadlines. 

If you’re applying before a fixed deadline, there are likely no repercussions to submitting your application on the last day. 

8. I Missed the FAFSA Deadline – What Now? 

If you miss the final June FAFSA deadline, you won’t be able to submit that year’s FAFSA form. If you miss a college’s FAFSA deadline, you might miss out on aid. 

9. Does the Common App Let You Submit After the Deadline? 

The Common App may let you submit applications after deadlines. The Common App states, “If you can successfully submit your application, the Common App has delivered it to the college to which you applied.” 

Some schools may accept slightly late applications, but it’s up to the school – it’s best not to take a gamble on this! 

Final Thoughts

Missing a college application deadline is a dreadful experience, but there are still options if it happens to you. Ensure you contact the college’s admissions office first, look for colleges with extended deadlines, apply to rolling admissions schools, or decide to take a gap year. While none of these may be what you want to do, they can help you work through an unsavory situation with your best interest in mind. 

If you want to avoid the possibility of missing application deadlines altogether, remember to make good use of your planning tools, start your applications early, and manage your time efficiently. 

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