What Happens if You Miss a College Application Deadline?

College applications should always be turned in on time. For many schools, it is impossible to turn in applications past the deadline (usually January 1st). However, mistakes, and life, happen. You may have experienced a technical issue that didn’t allow you to submit your application, you could have had an emergency, you were waiting on a letter of recommendation, or you may have simply forgotten over the busy holidays that your application is due. What happens if you miss a college application deadline?

For some students and schools, there are options if your application is late. Here’s what you need to know and do if it’s past January 1st.

Call the School

Your first step should be to immediately call the admissions department to find out if they will accept late applications. If they do, you will likely have to explain your reasoning as many will not accept it if you don’t have a good reason. 

And simply forgetting or having a connection issue on January 1st will likely not be a “good enough reason.” They will explain that you could have turned it in at an earlier date and avoided the issue. 

However, it is always worth it to call on the off chance they will accept your reason and your late application. And remember: you’re not the only student who is in this boat. The college could very well have protocol for late applications.

Submit Your Application Right Away

If the school does accept late applications, you should be submitting yours ASAP! Delaying it further will likely just jeopardize your admissions chances, or cause them to not accept your application at all. You also don’t want to push away any goodwill the admissions department gave you by allowing you to submit a late application.

Know Your Options if The School Doesn’t Allow Late Applications

If the admissions department does not allow any late applications or they find your reason unacceptable, you need to know your options. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to college in the fall or at all; you still have choices. Here are your other options if you miss a college application deadline:

1. Wait on Other Acceptance Letters

First, hopefully, you submitted applications to other colleges on time. You will likely receive your letters regarding your acceptance in a couple of months. You have until May 1st to make your decision on any colleges you were accepted to (but don’t be late on this part!). But even if you were late on all of your college applications, there are other steps you can take.

2. Apply to Rolling Admission Schools

Some schools do not have set deadlines for applications, but rather follow rolling admissions. These colleges and universities may have priority deadlines, but you can submit your application past this date! You just will have a lower chance of admission. However, this can be a great option for students who realized they missed the deadlines completely. 

3. Go to a Community College

If you can’t submit late applications, aren’t accepted to any of your schools, or don’t want to apply to rolling admission colleges, you can always decide to go to a community college. These schools help you get a headstart on your general education requirements while also saving you and your family money. After a year or two, you can decide to transfer to a 4-year college if you choose!

4. Transfer to Your Dream School at a Later Date

If you were unable to submit your late application to your dream school, you can always try to transfer to the college at a later date. Keep your grades, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work up, and you will still have a well-rounded application in a year! It’s not a guarantee you’ll get in, even if you submit the application on time, but it’s something to work towards.

Know the Impacts of a Late Application

Even if the college accepts late applications, you need to know how lateness affects your education and your future. So, what happens if you miss a college application deadline?

1. It Could Affect Your Admission Chances

A late application could affect when your submission is seen, or the school could note on your paperwork that you were late. Students who applied before you may have priority over you. As a result, you could see lower admission chances with a late application. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though! You might be pleasantly surprised.

2. You Could Miss Out on Financial Aid

Financial aid packages through schools are also first come, first serve. If you delay submitting your college application, these packages will go to students who applied before you. If you need financial aid to attend college, you could be unable to attend in the fall without other options.

If possible, you should always avoid submitting a late college application! Getting it out of the way as soon as you can helps you avoid last-minute problems and emergencies. However, schools understand that life happens. If you had an emergency that prevented you from submitting your paperwork, be sure to contact the admissions department as soon as possible.

Getting your application in on time could affect your financial aid package. If you’re in this boat, it may be worth your time to explore private student loans that can make college affordable. Our Student Loan Finder helps you identify and compare loans that best fit your goals and needs.