The wave of early action and early decisions deadlines has come and gone. Some students have clicked submit and are anxiously awaiting decisions. But for the majority of students applying to college via regular decision, deadlines are rapidly approaching. The University of California system deadline is November 30th, while the University of Texas deadline is just one day later. Most private college application deadlines fall on January 1st or 15th, giving students a few extra weeks to polish up essays during winter break.
Tensions are high for students, parents, counselors and teachers as many components must come together to form the final and completed college application. Below are some common questions and stress points for students in particular, answered from the college admissions office viewpoint. Every college is slightly different and it is always best to go straight to the source for all application deadline information, but these are the general rules when it comes to submitting application materials.
Can I submit my application before letters of recommendation or standardized test scores are received?
Generally yes. If students have completed all parts of the application, they can and should click submit. Most colleges will wait to review application materials until everything has been turned in, assuming those materials are turned in within a week or two of the actual student application.
My test scores are delayed. Who should I contact?
Every year, Collegeboard and ACT experience delays and technical difficulties during the chaotic application season. There have been multiple such issues already this fall, still weeks away from many official regular decision deadlines. If students are unable to obtain their scores or are having any other issues with supplemental materials, they should contact the college’s admission counselor for their region or high school.
I clicked submit, now what?
Give the admissions office at least a week to process application materials and begin matching transcripts, letters of recommendation and other supplemental materials. Be sure to regularly check the email address you provided in the application. This is the primary way colleges will reach out to students to ask questions, request additional information or pass along login information for their own online application portal (if they have one). If materials are still shown as missing a week or two after the deadline, or if the student has not received confirmation of the application, students should call or email the admissions office to check on the application status.
What about financial aid?
Colleges expect prospective freshman to complete the FAFSA to be considered for federal financial aid. Most colleges have deadlines in February or early March for priority consideration, so apply early! The FAFSA does rely on tax information for the most recent year, so families can not complete this piece officially until January.
Some colleges also require the CSS Profile, another financial aid application which asks more in-depth questions about a family’s financial situation. Typically the CSS Profile is used by private colleges and highly selective universities, but there are of course exceptions to this. Deadlines for the CSS Profile are usually in line with the FAFSA deadlines.
When will colleges notify students of the decision?
The short answer – it depends. Every college has different approaches to the review. Some will review applications immediately and give students decisions within 2-3 weeks of submission. Colleges with large volumes of applications or selective universities will typically need more time. This is especially true for colleges which require an essay (or multiple essays) and colleges who use a holistic review process. Information on the notification timeline should be easily searchable on the college’s admissions website.