College Admissions – Is a Deadline Really a Deadline?

I got a panicky call from a family yesterday. The college bound daughter became interested in applying to a certain public university but missed the last admissions deadline – published on the school’s admission page as December 1, 2016.  “Do we have options?”

Having worked in this environment for many years, I understood that often a published “Deadline” isn’t exactly a hard and true “deadline”. Why? One word. Yield.

I contacted said admissions office, and received this quick reply, “Although our deadline was December 1, our application is currently still available on our website. I would encourage your student to apply as soon as possible, as the application may close at any time. I hope this information is helpful. If you have additional questions, feel free to contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions”

This response didn’t surprised me. Why? One word. Yield.

What is yield? #1 – Yield is the magic metric that keeps college admissions officers up at night. #2 – Yield in college admissions is simply the % of students who enroll after having been offered admission.

What did this response show me? The school hadn’t reached the magic number of applications it believes it needs to hit targeted yield numbers for the upcoming academic year. They were still open for business. The published deadline wasn’t really the DEADLINE.

I am in no way implying you should roll the dice in the college application deadline game. I would never counsel families I work with to do so. Missing published deadlines for certain institutions (highly selective) or admission statuses (early decision, early actions) means you are SOL.

Predicting yield at the majority of colleges or universities from year to year is a fools errand at best. Missing deadlines has real consequences – you end up at the back of the line for aid distribution (merit and need), housing, registration priority, etc. But…

Your college bound son or daughter is really really really interested but they “”ran out of gas, had a flat tire. didn’t have enough money for cab fare, an old friend came in from out-of-town, someone stole their car, there was an earthquake, terrible flood. Locusts! IT WASN’T their FAULT, they SWEAR TO GOD!” and missed the published application deadline.

Or in the case of the family who called me, the daughter simply became infatuated with a school late and was willing to accept the low priority consequences, then…

There is no harm in asking.

The answer you receive from many institutions will be predicated more by reaching the requisite number of applications to yield the number of incoming students the institution has budgeted for than by any calendar declaration as published on the web site.

The answer will be a polite “NO” or more often than you think, “Yes, you still have time to apply”.