It may be only weeks away from freshman orientation, but it’s still not too late to enroll in a good college for fall.
Hundreds of colleges are still accepting students for the fall 2016 semester, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual College Openings Update. Still others will make room for the right student.
“For those who haven’t applied yet, the barrier is the feeling of, ‘Oh it’s too late,” says Madeleine Ryhneer, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. “You just need to push through that because there are still very good schools with openings, places that would be a great fit for you. At Susquehanna, even though we’ve filled our class, if a great candidate emerged over the summer, we’d still take a look.”
Experts like Rhyneer agree that while waiting until summer to begin the college application process is often do-able, it’s not without risk.
Kristen Capezza, associate vice president for enrollment management at Adelphi University in New York explains that students who choose to apply and enroll over the summer months will find themselves working on a condensed timeline.
“In applying late, students are encouraged reach out and directly connect with the college(s) of their choice to ensure applications are still being reviewed,” says Capezza. “Once linked with a direct contact within the institution’s admissions office, the student is then best positioned to remain proactive during the shortened time frame, ensuring documents are received and the application is reviewed accordingly.”
Be as prepared as possible before reaching out to the college, recommends Sara Newhouse, associate vice president for admission at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. “All materials should be complete upon submission,” she says. “In considering late applications, institutions must be able to move nimbly and quickly.”
Even ensured of a spot in the Class of 2020, late enrollers may still miss out on financial aid, preferred housing and first-choice classes, experts say.
“If a student comes to me today, I’m unlikely to be able to provide housing,” says Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, vice president for enrollment management at Otterbein University in Ohio. “If they don’t live locally, it could be problematic.”
John Chopka, Ph.D., vice president for enrollment management at Messiah College in Pennsylvania has run into the same issue with his summer applicants. “A biggie for us tends to be housing preference,” he agrees. “If you want a single room or a particular building, that’s driven by deposit date.”
Summer applicants may also struggle to get the ideal class schedule, says Blackburn-Smith. They may end up with courses they have to take but aren’t interested in, and at inconvenient times. “The sooner a student can get engaged and involved the better off they’ll be,” he says. “The later you go into the process the harder it is to get the experience you want.”
Financial aid, boring but important, needs to be addressed ASAP.
“I would suggest that if financial aid is an important part of the equation for these students, they should submit the FAFSA as soon as they submit the application for admission,” says Shery Boyles, director of admission at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. “The aid process may take several weeks. The late applicant will need to be highly responsive to the requests of the Office of Admission and the Office of Financial Assistance in order to get all of the process completed in time to begin classes.”
Newhouse says “at BSC, a late applicant could potentially sacrifice as much as $10,000 of financial aid in a given year.”
Summer applicants should also get up to speed quickly by attending orientation events and activities prior to the start of the fall semester. This helps to get the student acclimated with his or her college or university.
“Any orientation events that they miss will be a potential downfall,” says Brigid Lawler, dean of admissions at Marlboro College in Vermont, who gets a handful of summer applicants every year.
Whether a student is transferring from a different school, had a change of heart about the university they were initially going to attend, or just now decided to further their education, there is a school out there that is a good fit and willing to work with them.
“My advice to families, if they find themselves in this situation, is don’t feel paralyzed,” says Rhyneer. “There are very good schools who will want you. Don’t let your fear get in the way of moving forward.”