Deadlines: What do they mean, and what if you miss them?

If you thought campaign season advertising, with all the e-mails and phone calls was fun, and if you think the best part of the holiday season was the incessant mailings begging and pleading with you to drop whatever you were doing and shop, then you must be loving deadline season.

By now most you are getting pummeled with e-mail, IM, facebook messages, letters, postcards, automated phone calls, personal phone calls – for all I know you’re also getting singing telegrams for the most aggressive institutions. I’ve been busy with a countdown to our deadline – a message everyday leading up to Mason’s application deadline (which, is January 15th – act now! John Smith of Newton, MA failed to act and misery and sorrow followed him all of his days).

Why all the hype? As usual, a lot of it has to do with marketing. College know that you’re far less likely to enroll if you don’t get your application in by our deadline, even if we admit you – so we encourage, cajole and outright nag to get on your list.

The deadline, however, isn’t jus for show. Generally, colleges and university admission offices read all the applicants in by the deadline as fast as they can. Many institutions will entirely ignore applications received after the deadline, and even if a school will take a late application, the school is likely to be a lot tougher on a late applicant than one received in a timely manner.

Except – when they aren’t. There are a few distinctions to the deadline to consider. Some schools make their deadline a COMPLETE application deadline, meaning everything else, your transcripts and recommendations, for instance, also have to be in by that date. Most others will continue to take new material for your application. You can’t count on that factor, however, since schools will make their decision based on whatever they have at the time.

Other schools will find themselves below their application target. This year there is a lot of noise that the most expensive schools are getting fewer applications (there’s no evidence that it’s true, by the way), and at a minimum the schools with a higher price tag are probably scrambling to get additional applicants just in case you all realize that there are better investments of your time and money (did I mention that Mason was named one of the 50 best values in public education in the U.S., and the only school in the D.C. area on the list?). Anyhow, schools below target will just keep taking applications. Why stop? It’s not like it’s a law or anything.

For most schools that aren’t the very very very most competitive, applications will continue to be quietly accepted regardless of how many they received. To be honest, Mason keeps taking applications for quite a while. Since we’re again seeing a big increase in applications (hey, we WERE named the #1 up and coming school in the U.S. by US News and World Report), I won’t accept many late applicants. If, however, an applicant is a spectacular candidate, there a reasonable chance that I’ll extend an offer of admission, even for a late applicant. The same is true for most universities. They certainly won’t publish that information, and we don’t like to talk about it, but it happens all the time. Watch for a lot of that this year – knowing where the economy is, many schools will except you to get really frustrated by your financial aid and scholarship packages at the expensive schools. Just don’t wait too long – you may not be the only one looking around, and we only have so many spaces.

Again, your best bet by far is to apply well before the deadline. For Mason, that means apply this week. So stop reading and get busy! Be seeing you.


2 Responses

  1. Dear Mr Flagel

    I was wondering if maybe you could answer my question about school deadlines. I have been in a funk for about a couple of months (I kind of realized that because of immigration purposes, my only shot at a magnificent institution such a GMU would only come through NVCC, nothing against NVCC but I worked to hard to go to a community college) , and I just recently became determined enough (thanks to my parents) to give college a try…
    Unfortunately I tried to make the deadline for the Regular Decision Application but I did not make it. My teacher has not emailed her recommendation yet, and I turned in my application late by about 1 or 2 minutes (I finished revising my Honors Essay at 10:45ish but I saw that the school specifically asked students not to pay with credit card during 10:30 pm to 12 midnight so I did not want to mess with that either),

    My question is will my application be thrown out?

    I also applied for the Honors Program, if my application is kept, will my Honors Program application be thrown out also?

    And if you do keep my application, how much damage did my “funk” I inflict upon myself?

    Thanks in Advance,

    PS – No need to sugarcoat anything, I understand that me turning my application late is nobody else’s fault but my own

    • your application will absolutely NOT be thrown out – and very few places will deny a student just for being late. You will be considered with other late applicants, so after the students who got theirs in before the deadline. From your standpoint that shouldn´t be too big a deal since, once we´ve gone through the on time applications, we read the rest in the order they come in – so you´ll likely be the first application reviewed after the on time applications.

      As for the recommendation, as I wrote in the post, some schools are very uptight about everything being complete by the deadline – most continue to accept support documents well after – especially since the volume of mail at the deadline is so heavy most institutions need a few weeks to get it all opened and processed.

      So have no worries – if you´re academically qualified thereś a very good chance of being admitted.

      The deadline to be considered for Honors was December 1 so that might be more challenging. I haven´t looked at their numbers recently – it will depend on 1) how much the program director and honors committee wants you in and 2) how much space they have remaining. Itś not impossible that you would still get an offer, but at this point you´ll just have to wait and see. Good luck and I hope to have you here at Mason!

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