Maybe something came up that got in the way or maybe it just slipped your mind. In any case, you’ve just realized you’ve missed the application deadline for a college you wanted to attend. Now what do you do? You tackle it with the right attitude, that’s what. Many people would say you blew it and now you have to deal with your limited options. In reality, you still have plenty of options. They just might not be the ones you wanted. You’ll have to make the best out of a bad situation. The question is, are you willing?


Contact the admissions office immediately. Without exaggeration, at your next opportunity, dial them up. Explain your situation and ask what can be done. The answer may be “nothing,” but you won’t know until you try. Here’s an important note: you’re more likely to get the admissions office’s sympathy if you have a legitimate reason for having missed the deadline, such as an emergency that consumed all of your time and attention. If you simply missed the deadline because of a personal oversight, asking for help is going to be a much harder sell. In that event, you could take an enormous gamble on your credibility and test your acting skills. Or you could go the route of making the truth look palatable. Tell them how much of a learning experience it’s been already and how you plan to use this as a springboard for personal growth. Your chances of pulling this off might be low, but as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You may find yourself in a slightly different situation: the deadline hasn’t passed yet, but there’s no way you’re going to make it. If you have a valid reason for being behind schedule, you can request an extension, and you’re more likely to get one before the deadline expires than afterwards. If you were simply procrastinating, then practice your salesperson skills. The third option is you genuinely hadn’t discovered the school until recently (or at least, that’s what you tell them) and now you want to add it to your list if you can, pretty-please. Butter them up and they might just let you slide.

Be Careful

In the event you’re allowed to submit an application after the deadline, you’ll probably have to do it on the school’s terms. There’s a fair chance you’ll have to print out all your documents and physically mail them to the admissions office. You might think you could just submit the Common Application to them, but that would likely be ignored. You’ll also want to be sure any councilors or teachers who are sending transcripts or letters of recommendation know exactly how to submit them. When the college gives you instructions, follow them to a tee. Even though you’re trying to be as expedient as possible with getting your materials together, don’t rush it. After you’ve been generously granted a reprieve, the last thing you want to do is repay them with essays that aren’t proofread or forms that aren’t filled out correctly.

Explore Backups Anyway

Whether your pleas are heeded or not, look into other colleges and universities which have later deadlines. This may seem like a fool’s errand, but there are actually many schools with application deadlines in the spring or summer – at the time of this writing, for example, Eastern Oregon University’s application deadline for the fall semester is September 1st. Many of these late-deadline colleges are smaller schools, such as art schools, religious institutions, and “University of State at City” types, but there are plenty of them, and surely at least one of them can suit you. You also should look into colleges and universities with rolling admissions. These schools have no rigid timeframe for when applications are taken, and many accept applicants all the way until classes are full. These also chiefly include smaller schools but can include some prominent places like the University of Pittsburgh or Michigan State. If you have options, you always ought to explore them. Keep in mind, however, you’ll still be a bit behind the eight ball. Many things in college are still first-come-first-served, such as classes, choice of dormitories, and perhaps most crucially, financial aid. But you’ll have to remember you’re getting something when you could just as easily have gotten nothing.

Take Your Time

If you miss the admissions deadline for the fall semester, why not apply for the spring? Some students actually prefer that because, typically, the school will be less crowded. You could also choose to take a gap year. While you’re waiting, you can work to earn some money and establish good habits so you won’t have any issues when the next deadline rolls around.

Learn from Your Mistakes

It seems so simple, but some people don’t. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but don’t forget it happened, either. Keep it in a place in your mind where it will inspire you to get better in all aspects. The fact of the matter is, even if you had a good reason for missing the deadline, there will be people who think making such a big mistake makes you stupid. At this point, you can choose to believe them or you can prove them wrong. The real test is not to never make mistakes, but it’s to see how well we handle it after we’ve made them. Once again: are you willing?