Late Season Applications: How to Make Colleges Woo You

April 19, 2018

College admissions decisions for the regular round are finally arriving in Baltimore — there are a number of opportunities high school seniors can seize if they are dissatisfied with their choices or discouraged by costs.  In the spring months, colleges are hustling to fill empty dorm rooms and open spots in their incoming classes. Come May, college admissions becomes a buyer’s market for high school seniors.

It’s a heady moment when the first acceptance letter arrives, and that “first love” is sweet. Colleges know this: a key strategy of many admissions committees is to be the “first admit.” Like a suitor, they don’t want to appear too eager, yet they want you to know that they loved you first. As the seasons change, roles in the college courtship reverse. While in the fall it was the student looking to stand out in the crowd, by spring colleges are eager to be first on your list.

The “late” season of the college admissions process is full of opportunities for high school seniors. Some colleges are still accepting applications, and they’ll act fast — notable institutions like The College of Charleston, Bard, Clemson, Auburn, and Sarah Lawrence have become known for their quick turnaround late in the game.  In fact, High Point University in North Carolina — an increasingly active player in the Baltimore area — will often accept applications well into the summer. Small liberal arts colleges like Elizabethtown College, near Lancaster PA, may not publicize their willingness to review late applications, but they likely will do so (especially after May 1!)

In addition to late consideration, many students will receive discounts on their tuition — even if they haven’t applied for financial aid! Admitted students are fair game for colleges and good prospects for more aggressive “wooing.” If an admitted applicant has failed to send in their deposit, they become a prime target for the admissions committees. The student was interested enough to visit and apply, but perhaps the school is further down the senior’s list — maybe the school is a first-choice, but the financial aid award is not enough for the family — a $10,000-$15,000 discount might be just enough to seal the deal.  In other words, hungry colleges will now compete for students at price. Enrolling enough students to hit net tuition budgets is the number one priority of college admissions deans.

There are four “seasons” of college admissions: the “preliminary” period dominated by athletic recruits, the “early” season of ED, EA, Priority and other pre-December 1 applications, the “regular” season of January 1 (or so) deadlines, and the “late season” after April 1 that heats up after May 1. It’s the late season that offers savvy applicants a great deal of compelling options if they are patient and play their cards just right.

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