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3 Reasons Late Admissions to College Can Be OK!

June 04, 2018

It’s not too late to apply to colleges for the fall term.

A few weeks ago, this tweet caught our eye:

John T Lawlor Tweet

Additionally, that same week, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) released its College Openings Update, which lists universities and colleges that are still accepting applications for the fall semester. At press time, more than 400 colleges were still looking for new members of their freshman class! Which got us thinking: Can late admissions to college be OK—and maybe even a financially savvy strategy?


Here are a few scenarios when late admissions to college may make sense.

  1. Late Admissions: If Your First-Choice Colleges are Unaffordable

Let’s say your child applied to five schools: a safety, three good fits, and a stretch school, and she got into her safety school and two of the good fits. Unfortunately, none of them offered financial aid packages that work with your paying for college budget, so you’re considering starting the college search over again.


For late admissions applications, it makes sense to take a look at schools with three key criteria:

  • You know they’ll be affordable for you and your budget
  • They’re still accepting applications for the fall term
  • They still have financial aid available and your child is likely to receive it (as you don’t want to find yourself in the same situation again with the second round of applications).

This late in the game, it’s not wise to make assumptions or act blindly: Reach out to the admissions and financial aid counselors at your late admissions universities and colleges to gain clarity in terms of affordability, potential financial aid packages, specific application tips and/or requirements, and deadlines. You’ll want to go into the process with as much assurance as possible that you’re using your time and money wisely (e.g., resulting in your child getting accepted to an affordable school).

  1. Late Admissions: If You’re Having Second Thoughts

Let’s say your child has gotten into a good fit school, decided to attend, and is now having a change of heart. Maybe he would rather not go to that far-flung college after all, and would prefer a campus closer to home. Or she had thought microbiology was going to be her calling, but her spring seminar on diplomacy got her mind buzzing (and there just happens to be an international relations major at a different college that’s still accepting applications). If your child is having serious second thoughts about either the college and/or major, it may be worth your time to apply late to a school that looks to be a better fit.


Of course, uncertainty and exploration are hallmarks of the high school and college years. Before deciding whether changing course and applying late is a smart move, sit down for a heart-to-heart with your child and determine whether this is a serious sea change or a passing phase. Have your child consult with trusted advisors at the first college and the potential new university to get a sense of what’s really driving him to reconsider.


Additionally, weigh alternate options: Would still attending the first college make sense, with the possibility of transferring later if things don’t work out?

  1. Late Admissions:  If You Missed the Deadlines

It happens to the best of us: In the rush of test prep, homework, sports practices, and everyday obligations, some things fall through the cracks. If your child missed any college application and/or financial aid deadlines, you may find yourself considering your best options at this point in the process. No judgment! Look at the NACAC list and determine any colleges that could be good choices for the fall. Speak to the admissions counselors and financial aid departments at each school, then follow their recommendations to the letter. Ideally, an acceptance letter will soon be in hand (and we promise, it’ll be just between us—no one has to know that the decision came late).  


Whatever path your child ends up taking, remember to lead by example, with maximum empathy. To minimize emotion and maximize good decision making, approach all conversations through the lens of setting your child up for success. That’s always been the goal, right?