Dec 31, 2014

Dartmouth, Penn, Chicago and others extend ‘regular decision’ deadlines

University of Chicago

Procrastinators alert!  You know those application deadlines we’ve seemed so strict about?  The deadlines most students worked hard to meet?


A number of colleges have changed their minds and are offering applicants a little extra time to complete essays and submit applications for ‘regular decision’ admission to the Class of 2019.

In other words, students who couldn’t quite get paperwork together by deadline are being rewarded with a few more days to complete their applications and submit.

In an email forwarded to prospective applicants on December 30, the University of Pennsylvania advised that the admissions office would be keeping “The Common Application open through January 5th for students interested in applying Regular Decision.”  But as of this writing the extension hadn’t been communicated to the Common Application, and you could hear sounds of frustration on College Confidential from students fearing their applications would not go through after January 1.

Dartmouth gave a little more advance notice and wrote students and some counselors on December 23 that the Admissions office would be closed from December 24 to January 4, but students having “trouble submitting their applications by the January 1 deadline” or those needing a few extra days for “holiday endeavors” would be given until January 6 to submit.  

The University of Chicago was even more gracious:  “In honor of the New Year, UChicago has extended the Regular Decision deadline to January 5th.  The holidays are a time to enjoy the company of friends and family, maybe sleep in, and eat cookie after delicious cookie.  We hope you enjoy yourself this holiday season, and take these extra days to relax a bit.”

Relax?  With the notorious University of Chicago essays hanging over your head?  Doubtful.

Students on the Olin College of Engineering mailing list received an email advising them that the January 1 deadline was extended to January 4.  But as of this writing neither the website nor the Common Application reflected the change, and efforts to reach the admissions office were unsuccessful because it's closed for the holidays.

One Midwestern school got so excited about joining the party that the “Dean of Admission extended the application deadline to January 15….”  The problem is that the posted application deadline on both the school website and the Common Application is March 1.

And Loyola Marymount University let students know that the essay prompts marked “optional” on the Common Application weren’t really optional, but that they were allowing until February 1, after the January 15 regular decision deadline, for the essays to be submitted separately from the Common App.  Complicated?  A little.

So why would all these colleges be shifting around deadlines?  One theory might be that they’re trolling for additional applications because they fell a little short from previous years or they want to look more selective by having more to reject.  

But the problem is that there’s no one around to answer questions—most admissions offices have been closed since before Christmas.  If a college sends an email to prospective students but fails to make adjustments to either the website or the Common Application, applicants rightfully want to know that the application they send will get through the system.

So here’s a little insider information:  the published deadline provided on an application website is often different from the hard cut-off date after which no further applications will be accepted by a college or university. This is to help colleges and students navigate special circumstances. The Common Application, for one, is capable of accepting applications long after the date that appears on the grid or on a student’s dashboard.  

That doesn’t mean you should try submitting late just to see if it works. That's a really bad plan. But if a college notifies you that a deadline has been extended, you can count on the application software to accept your application even if the published date hasn’t been changed.  It just would be nice if all the messages were the same.

And keep in mind that only students who have somehow gotten onto a college’s radar will get notification of deadline extensions.  Students on mailing lists or those who listed schools as “My Colleges” on the Common Application were among those rewarded with invitations to submit after deadline.

Is there a lesson here?  Be sure to “demonstrate interest" to all the colleges to which you think you may apply by getting on mailing lists, entering colleges on the Common Application, or opening an application “account” for colleges not using the Common App.

Don’t assume that because you’re receiving mail from a college that you are on the “A-list” of applicants—they could have purchased your name from the College Board.  Instead, make sure you reach out to the college by signing up to receive information and then be sure to open email.

And if you still have questions about a deadline, contact the college directly—except not around the holidays.  Even on the single busiest application day of the year, most institutions are closed.

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