Don't just apply to college… Position yourself.

Last Chance College Admissions Opportunities

April 1—April Fool’s Day—has arrived. Your student has fought the good fight: taken the standardized tests, applied to a number of schools, written myriad essays, and waited on pins and needles for months. There are a few decent choices, but nothing he or she is truly excited about. Financial aid packages have been disappointing. Or your kid is sweating it out on a waitlist, with lukewarm feelings about the second choice school. The college process is really feeling like the proverbial Race to Nowhere.

What to do? You have three options.

1. If your student feels that he or she really did not apply to enough schools that were realistic, many great schools have late or no closing dates for applications. Check out  4 Ways to Search for Colleges with Late Deadlines, a blog post by my colleague in Virginia, Nancy Griesemer, at College Explorations. Let me point out some openings that may surprise you:

Several late schools are among Loren Pope’s 40  Colleges That Change Lives, including: New College of Florida (Sarasota, 4/15); Hendrix (AK, 6/1); Marlboro (NH, no closing, test optional), St. John’s College (“Great Books,” Annapolis & Santa Fe, no closing, test optional); and Wabash (Men Only, IN, no closing). Two “Pope” schools require negotiating on SAT submission timing: Hiram (OH, no closing, 4/1 SAT); Hope (MI, no closing, 3/31 SAT).

Some state universities’ flagships are still open, sometimes requiring SAT timing negotiation: U Arizona, U Alabama, U Arkansas, U Maine, U Missouri, U Montana, U Nevada, U New Mexico, U North Dakota,  U South Dakota, and U Wyoming. Numerous state institutions’ satellite campuses are still open as well.

Many fine Catholic institutions are still open, such as: Loyola U Maryland (6/1, test optional); St. Bonaventure (NY, 7/1); Sacred Heart U (CT, no closing, test optional);  Seton Hall U (NJ, no closing); LaSalle U (PA, no closing); Marywood (PA, no closing); Loyola U New Orleans (LA, no closing).

In my own geographical area, some great late choices are: Richard Stockton (NJ, 6/1); SUNY Purchase (7/1); U Pittsburgh (no closing); Fairleigh Dickinson (NJ, no closing): Hofstra (NY, no closing).

If your student is an artist, he or she is in luck: School of Visual Arts (NY, 5/1); Santa Fe U of Art & Design (6/1); UNC School of the Arts (7/31); Savannah College of Art & Design (GA, 8/1); Corcoran College of Art & Design (DC, 8/1); Otis College of Art & Design (CA, 8/1); School of the Art Institute of Chicago (8/1); U of Arts (PA, no closing); Columbia College Chicago (no closing).

2. Your student could go to community college for two years, save big bucks, and transfer to a state university via an articulation agreement.A formal articulation agreement permits credits that are earned in certain junior or community college programs to be transferred to a higher college or university.

Check out Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s chapter on this popular money-saving college strategy in her classic book, The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price. The American Association of College Registrars & Admissions Officers (AACRAO) offers links to state articulation Web sites.

At first it seems like a foreign idea, living at home for the first two years, commuting to college locally, without the American middle class culture’s prescribed rite of passage of freshman dorm, fraternity rush, and unbridled underage drinking. But how did this impractical, unhealthy entitlement of adolescence become “normal” in our society? And how does it widely persist, despite skyrocketing college costs, high unemployment and a sluggish economy?

I would bet that college students who start at home probably have better grades, and more serious professional focus, than their counterparts of similar academic abilities and interests who are away at a university. Just a guess. And what’s college for, anyway?

3. Your student could attend his or her current best choice school for freshman year, with an open mind, but earning grades that offer the flexibility to “transfer up.” You should always encourage your teen to keep an open mind, and give the school a chance. Transferring is a stressful, disruptive process that is not ideal. However, it is often a great choice for a student who desires more challenge or programs to fit changing interests.

Your teen will need a strong GPA to maintain the flexibility to transfer; I recommend shooting for a 3.5 (higher for an elite school). Although transfer openings are not predictable from year to year, an applicant will not be so bound by the competitive freshman process that stresses high school GPA and SAT scores (i.e., colleges trying to drive up their freshman “stats”). Your student may find a serendipitous opportunity by going the “transfer up” route.

4. Do a Gap Year program. Gap year programs can be oriented toward academics, travel or service. For more information, check out The Complete Guide to the Gap Year by Kristin White.

Related posts: How to Afford College, Waiting for the “Fat Envelope”, Dealing with Rejection, College Transfers: Why or Why Not?