College Admissions: Not Always the Timeline We Imagine

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College plans are set for most high school graduates, but you might be surprised to know that some July and August admits are still possible. Of course, December and April are the two months in the college admissions cycle best known for notifications. If you apply early action or early decision to a college, you’ll likely receive a decision in December (although some, such as University of Virginia and University of North Carolina, notify early applicants in January). If you apply regular decision, you will likely hear back in April (although a number of schools are notifying in March and even February). The timeline varies, and with rolling decision, some students hear about college admissions decisions as early as the first week of senior year.

You probably knew all that, but perhaps you didn’t know that even now, well after May 1, the National College Decision Deadline, quite a few colleges are accepting applications from seniors for the fall of 2018. (You can check out the current list here). So for students who are perhaps late to the game or who just want to further expand their options, it’s good to know that there are excellent options still available.

In general, the timeline of the admissions process works out in the way people expect. You apply by a deadline and find out within a reasonable time period (one often stated on the schools’ websites). For some, however, it’s important to have a looser grip on expectations. For example, sometimes students apply to a school by an early deadline and are deferred. Sometimes a student receives notice in March of the college’s offer of a spot on its waitlist. In these instances, I advise students to view this as an extension of their timeline, not the end of it. Is a deferral or waitlist notification considered good news? Well, it is for some – but for most, it’s disappointing. Usually this sort of response means you’re qualified for admission and the college wants to accept you – but just can’t yet . (The key word here is “yet”). If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it’s not over ’til it’s over.

So the takeaway here – especially for rising seniors, who are looking ahead to this summer and into the fall – is to be prepared for the possibility that the timeline you have in mind for yourself may change. Sometimes things work out in ways that are better than you can design for yourself, and at other times they happen earlier or later than you would have planned. It’s just as true in college admissions as in other areas of life. In any case, if your plans aren’t completely settled, you’ll want to stay vigilant and work hard, while being open-minded and flexible as you go through this process.