You Missed your Application Deadlines – Now What?
Many parts of the college application process can seem like the end of the world. You have to get great exam scores, a high GPA, an immaculate personal essay, and impressive extracurriculars, all before the application deadlines in January or February of senior year.
Imagine you missed those deadlines. Your top choice colleges needed your applications by a certain date, and you just couldn’t get your act together in time. It’s the middle of March, and while your classmates are checking the mail for acceptance letters, you have to explain to your parents that there won’t be any letters for you. What do you tell them? What happens next?
First, don’t panic! There’s lots of options for seniors who have missed their application deadlines. Your college career may be different from what you imagined, and it may take longer than you expected, but it will still be worthwhile and get you the degree you need.
Your first step is to get all of your paperwork completed as soon as you can. Get all of your teacher recommendations, transcripts, and exam scores in writing. The more time passes, the less your high school’s faculty will be able to help you, and the harder it will be to obtain the paperwork you need to apply for college. Whatever your new plan is for college, make sure you’re prepared in advance!
If you’ve missed the deadlines for your colleges of choice, it may be time to choose other schools. There are almost 4,000 colleges in the U.S., and while most of them have their application deadlines set for January or February, many also have deadlines in later in spring or during the summer. You may have an extra month or two to submit your application to these colleges, and these colleges may offer exactly what you need.
Another immediate option is community college. This may not sound appealing to everyone, but completing the first two years of your degree at community college can be financially and situationally beneficial.
Community colleges are less expensive than traditional universities and can be a great way to complete some of your degree requirements on the cheap. Community colleges also provide night or weekend classes, giving you the flexibility to work full time while attending school. This flexibility combined with discounted tuition will minimize student debt.
Working full time at a traditional university is possible, but complicated. Both off-campus jobs and universities will want to monopolize your workday schedule, and finding time for both won’t be easy. This balance is much easier to achieve at community college.
Another option is a gap year. A gap year is not the same as a year off; a year off is a year of summer vacation, while a gap year is an intentional time without school to travel, work, do community service, or anything else that helps your academic career. A gap year is a time to make your college application more impressive, not a time to put off school.
A gap year can be amazing! It’s a time to pursue interests that can make your application better, like culinary school, writing seminars, volunteer work, and countless other options.
Many students take a gap year to travel, which can greatly improve your application if you learn another language, complete classes while abroad, or get a job in another country. Travel abroad can provide you with novel experiences and help you craft the narrative for your college application.
Taking a gap year may not be what you planned on doing, but it can benefit you and your college application immensely.
After a gap year, you can still apply to your colleges of choice, so long as you meet the new application deadlines. Your applications to colleges may be just as good, if not better, than it was before your gap year. It might just be the second chance you need!
During your gap year, consider extension courses at a college you plan to apply to. These are courses offered by some universities that anyone can take, student or otherwise, so long as they pay and attend. These courses provide credits towards your degree and can teach you quite a bit.
Extension courses will not provide the same college experience as being an undergraduate student (no dorm life, no dining hall, etc.), but they may allow you to access student resources like campus libraries.
Credits from extension courses will very likely transfer to whatever college you end up attending, but the courses themselves may not. If the credits transfer, but not the course, you may have to repeat some classes if they are required for your degree.
It’s impossible to talk about gap years and missing application deadlines without talking about the mental health of the student. Some students experience anxiety leading up to admission deadlines, fearful that they are “not smart enough” or “not good enough” to attend college.
This anxiety is real, and it can be debilitating. While you may struggle to find a college that works for you, know that there is a college fit for everyone, and anyone can achieve a bachelor’s degree if they work hard and never give up. College can be intimidating after 4 years of high school, but if you have finished high school, you can finish college too.
With anxiety like this, a gap year can turn into something much less productive and healthy. Whatever you want to achieve during your gap year, make sure you have a plan, and make sure to put your mental health first. If you enter college with a healthy state of mind, you can’t lose!
In short, missing college application deadlines is not the end of the world. Your college plan may change, but it can also improve. So long as you have a plan and execute it, you’ll be a proper undergraduate in no time!
Author: Hastings Davin
 Link to “The Community College Advantage”
 Link to “Your College Application Narrative”