Applying to late deadline schools isn't just for slackers. There are numerous good reasons to choose a late deadline school. The best reason is that it's the top school of your choice. However, you might want to consider late deadline schools if you needed time in your senior year to improve your grades, test scores, classes taken, or activities. Also, having a couple of late deadline schools in your back pocket can be an important strategy for students who are applying Early Action or Early Decision. Fortunately, there are plenty of great schools that have application deadlines that are later than the traditional holiday season deadlines.
Important Note: Colleges with late deadlines and colleges with rolling admissions are not exactly the same thing. If you came here looking for rolling admissions, then take a look at our dedicated information page all about rolling admissions and take a look at this list of schools with rolling admissions.
Colleges with non-traditional deadlines choose to have one for a variety of reasons. While some of them do have late deadlines because the school tends to receive fewer applicants, this shouldn't deter you if the school is the right match for your academic goals. Also, other schools feel that asking for an application in the middle of the most important year of high school isn't the best representation of who you will be in their program. They want to look at your complete transcript before making a decision. Finally, smaller schools might not want to pull valuable instructors and staff into admissions committees during the school year.
Because schools have a broad variety of reasons for making their deadline later than average, finding a terrific college with a later than average deadline is probably easier than you think because there are probably more of them than you know. Some schools even have deadlines in September after the semester has already begun. Because of this, there's no need to panic and apply to any school available. You'll still want to take a look at your criteria for a great school and see which schools with late deadlines are a good match. Prioritize your criteria according to what is most important to you. Is it campus life? The location of the school? The quality of a particular program? Research opportunities?
If it turns out that you truly can't find a late deadline college that works for you, it's time to get creative. You might want to consider doing a gap semester or gap year. Attending junior college with strong grades can demonstrate your ability to perform well at the collegiate level, and this can be a great option if you don't quite have the GPA for your top choice school. If you choose this route, get in touch with the four-year schools that interest you and ask about which credits will transfer. This can save you time and effort as you work toward your bachelor's.
Finally, your application package to a late deadline school will need to have all of the items that a school with a traditional deadline will, including your essay. One of the most common mistakes we see with students applying to schools with late application deadlines is not making their essay current. If you're applying late spring or summer, then you're going to have different things going on in your life than you did in the fall. Late deadline schools are expecting you to be a more mature and focused applicant than your traditional deadline counterparts.
Therefore, in your essay, highlight these aspects to the admissions officers. Especially if you have dramatically improved your grades in your senior year over your sophomore and junior years or improved your standardized test scores, let the admissions officers see that you now have the study skills to succeed. Regardless of the school's deadline, submitting an outstanding essay will help you set yourself apart from the crowd and increase your chances of acceptance.