What to Do If You Miss a College Application Deadline

Application Strategies
June 30, 2020
As If Keeping Track Of College Applications Wasn’t Enough, Students Must Also Keep An Eye Out For Important Deadlines...

Without deadlines, colleges wouldn’t have an organized process for reviewing the applications of prospective students. Deadlines give colleges structure, and they give students a substantial pocket of time in which they can dedicate themselves to crafting the best application they can.

So, what happens when a student misses an important deadline? Surprisingly, it happens more often than you’d think, and college admissions offices are prepared to deal with this common occurrence. Keep reading to find out what you can do to help your child submit an impressive application, even if they missed a deadline (or two).

A Whirlwind Of Deadlines

When a student begins working on their college application, they’re given plenty of resources to stay on track to submit their application before their chosen deadline. Oftentimes, college counseling services like WeAdmit even suggest that students create a college application timeline and keep a detailed schedule.

While each college sets different deadlines for specific components like letters of recommendation and SAT scores, they still release their deadlines for completed applications. Students have the option to choose between early and regular deadlines, and this can help them greatly if they got started on their application late or simply want more time to work on it.

In general:

  • Regular decision applications are usually due January 1st
  • Common early action and decision deadlines are November 1st and November 15th

While both early action and early decision applications share the same deadlines, one is more binding than the other. Early action shows initiative while early decision binds the student to the college they apply to if they’re accepted.

If a student is unsure which deadline they want to apply under, they should weigh their options between early action and early decision and make their decision wisely. They shouldn’t feel the need to rush; while applying under an early deadline shows great confidence, it could work against the student if they’re rushing to get all their materials together. Furthermore, it would increase their chances of missing a deadline.

What To Do If Your Child Misses Their Application Deadlines

During college application season, high school seniors juggle multiple responsibilities and activities. They may be super organized and driven, but sometimes, life just happens and deadlines can easily be missed.

A student can either miss submitting their application entirely, or simply forget to send in a component of the application like a letter of recommendation or their SAT scores. Either way, both possibilities are common, and by asking the right questions, your student can still get back on track with their college admissions journey.

Plenty of high school students miss their college application deadlines every year, so it’s important that students don’t panic. Reassure your student that they still have options, regardless of their missed deadline.


The very first thing you or your child should do is contact the college’s admission office and explain the situation to them. Ask about the college’s policies for deadlines and whether or not they would accept an application past the enforced deadline. Meanwhile, the student needs to be prepared to explain why they missed their deadline, and unfortunately, a simple “I forgot” won’t suffice.

They should be able to explain their reasons for missing the deadline either over the phone or in a handwritten letter to the admissions office. The college’s admissions office may ask for this in addition to their application as a stipulation for accepting it past the deadline. In their letter, the student should outline why they think they would still be a good fit for that college; it would function as a cover letter of sorts and would be a nice touch to their late application.

If the college accepts your student’s late application, they need to understand that they may not have priority for first-come, first-serve college components like financial aid, course registration, or housing options.


Another thing a student can do if they missed their college application deadline is to look for schools that accept students on a rolling basis.

Rolling admission basically means that a college still enforces application deadlines, but they have a certain number of seats to fill in every class. They keep accepting applications from students until the minimum requirement of class rosters are filled, so your chances of submitting a late application are much greater if it’s for a rolling admission college.


It’s important that students remember that each college functions independently; even if the college is a part of a much larger network of universities, like the University of California, each admissions department may have their own reasons for extending application deadlines.

For example, due to the coronavirus and unexpected school closures, many U.S. colleges have extended their application deadlines as far back as July. Students can consider applying to colleges that have extended application deadlines; they may inadvertently find their ideal college while they’re at it!


If a student is committed to going to the college that they missed submitting their application for, they can always take the fall semester off and begin in the spring. It’s very common for students to start in the middle of the year, and they may even have a chance to ease their high-school-to-college transition.


Lastly, if students like the idea of having a semester off, they can be productive by taking some classes at their local community college to get some general credits out of the way. This will save them time and money down the road, too.

Overall, if your child has missed their application deadline, remind them that they still have plenty of options and it isn’t the end of the world. Help them contact the college admissions office, and encourage them to pursue all their remaining options before giving up. They can still experience college even if they’re dealing with the stress of missing an important deadline.

Making Sure You Don’t Miss Out

While missing college application deadlines is a common occurrence, there are plenty of practical ways that students can avoid making this mistake.

Students should consider obtaining a detailed college application timeline in addition to a planner or calendar. By outlining their tasks along with their corresponding deadlines, it will be much easier for a student to submit their college application components on time.

It’s important to remember that high school seniors are under a lot of stress, and having multiple deadlines to keep track of certainly doesn’t ease their anxiety. If your child is dealing with a missed college application deadline, encourage them to keep pursuing the options that are still available to them.

This is why WeAdmit’s professional counselors work hard to keep students on track; college applicants now have more resources and support than ever to ensure they’re delivering impressive applications on time. Your student’s college journey doesn’t have to end at a missed deadline, so help them keep going!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.