LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Traditional college admission deadlines have long passed, but students may still have some options if they didn’t get accepted to their dream schools, are having second thoughts about the schools they chose or just didn’t get their act together to apply all those months ago.
The list of colleges still seeking applicants has grown to more than 450 since the National Association for College Admission Counseling posted its annual "College Openings Update" in early May, said Melissa Clinedinst, NACAC's assistant director of research (link.reuters.com/kep59v).
The initial list had more than 250 institutions, but some schools dropped off as they filled spots while others added themselves as spaces became available, Clinedinst said. The list will be available until July 1.
Most are smaller private colleges, but more than a third of the schools listed are public and include some of the U.S.’s bigger institutions such as Arizona State University, University of Iowa and Wayne State University. A few colleges in Britain and Canada also have openings.
Some of the colleges on the list - such as Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Pace University in New York and Arizona State - have rolling admissions policies. These policies allow the schools to accept applications throughout the year, using a larger window than traditional admission practices.
“We have a very different mission to serve the students of Arizona, California and the rest of the United Sates who are perhaps not being served” by schools with more rigid admission policies, said David Burge, Arizona State’s executive director of admissions services. “We consider ourselves more nimble and scalable.”
Most colleges, by contrast, require students to apply by deadlines that typically range from late November to early February, and to accept admission offers by May 1.
Those deadlines are in part designed to help colleges predict the size of incoming classes. But college experts say the admissions process has become less predictable for both schools and families as more students apply to more institutions. Many schools that add themselves to the list discover in early May that they have missed their attendance targets.
“They didn’t predict their yield quite right,” said Clinedinst. “Not enough accepted students decided to enroll.”
Azusa Pacific University near Los Angeles is using the College Openings list for the first time this year after a record number of applications failed to produce enough committed students, said David Bixby, the university’s executive vice president. Azusa Pacific accepts roughly half of those who apply, and its undergraduate population has grown from 4,400 in 2003 to 5,700 last year.
“We usually fill our class entirely by May 1,” said Bixby, who said the school still has about 150 freshmen spaces open to complete an incoming class of 1,600 students. Accepted students this year “are just taking a lot longer to decide.”
The list of openings can be especially helpful for students whose families aren’t “college aware” enough to know about traditional deadlines, said Steven Antonoff, a college consultant in Denver. This list can also help those who were rejected by their chosen schools or who didn’t carefully craft their first round of applications.
The college application process can be “so competitive, and students can have way too many reach schools on their list,” said college consultant Todd Weaver of Strategies for College. Students who “overshoot” this way have a second chance to find a school where they might be a good fit, he said.
Just because a school has space, though, doesn’t mean it’s easy to get in, college counselors warn. Applicants still have to meet the school’s qualifications and submit their applications quickly.
The good news is that most schools also give a quick thumbs-up or down. Arizona State, for example, calls students as soon as it receives their applications and makes decisions shortly after receiving all their paperwork, Burge said.
“We encourage the students to contact the college admissions office directly to find out about the application process, what they need to provide and how much space they actually have,” Clinedinst said.
The vast majority of listed schools report that they still have housing and financial aid available, but how generous that aid will be varies considerably.
Many colleges don’t meet all of their students’ financial needs during the regular application process - a practice known as gapping. The later a student applies, the less financial aid may be available, counselors said.
Then again, a student should not assume that a late application will result in no aid or less desirable aid, said Arizona State’s Burge.
“Don’t self-select out of the process,” Burge said. “Apply, finish that process, stay diligent and make some personal connection to the school before you decide.”
(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are her own.)
Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum