Question: I'm a parent who would like to find out what schools would still accept applications (in mid-March or beyond) for a very strong student.
It's impossible to responsibly recommend colleges without knowing about the "very strong student" in question (prospective major, geographic and school-size preferences, SAT or ACT scores, etc.) The College Board used to include a handy item on their “Matchmaker" questionnaire that said, "Application deadline not passed," which was a great way to find the most selective colleges that were still accepting applications and which ticked many boxes on the student's must-have list. But they did away with it a couple years ago and I miss it a lot ... especially at this time of year. So now I am stuck relying on my intuition and experience when finding 11th-hour schools for high school seniors.
But without some knowledge of the candidate, these tools don't help much. For instance, Drexel University in Philadelphia offers some excellent programs in arts, sciences, and engineering and is still accepting applications but I can't tell if a large urban school is what your student is seeking. For small, sort of quirky liberal arts experiences, I might recommend New College of Florida, Eckerd College (also in Florida and especially strong in environmental studies), Unity College in Maine or St. Johns in Maryland and New Mexico (two campuses) with an unusual Great Books curriculum. Another strong liberal arts option is Hendrix in Arkansas. Thinking outside the box (and outside the country), Jacobs University in Germany offers a curriculum that is entirely in English and draws students of many nationalities. Hofstra University in Long Island has both an Honors Program and a non-traditional “New College for Interdisciplinary Studies" (a school within the school) that might appeal to strong students.
To identify additional colleges that are still accepting applications, go to the Common Applicaton Web site and see the list of member schools and their requirements. You can scroll down the list to find schools with late deadlines, no closing dates, or with “Rolling Admission," which means that applicants will be admitted until the class is full. See https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/MemberRequirements.aspx
This College Confidential discussion forum thread includes a long list of “Rolling Admission" colleges that other CC members have put together. You may spot some schools that interest you here. Keep in mind that most big public universities have honors programs that help their best students find each other quickly and offer special opportunities for them. http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/354075-list-colleges-early-action-early-decision-rolling-admissions.html
In early May, the National Associate for College Admission Counseling will post online their annual “Space Available Survey" which is a state-by-state list of all colleges and universities that did not fill their freshman and transfer spots and are still accepting applications, even when deadlines have officially passed. There are usually a few fairly selective schools on that list.
Finally, if your child is interested in a particular college where he or she would be a very sought-after candidate due to grades, test scores, etc., you should contact the admission office and ask if there is any wiggle room with the deadline, even if it is already long passed. (This definitely won't work at colleges that turn away far more students than they accept and it may not work if you need financial aid.)
Frankly, I've always believed that bright and eager students can get a good education anywhere. Obviously, it's wise to direct teenagers to institutions where they will be challenged and engaged. But often those who find themselves at the top of the heap at less selective schools are able to parlay that position into high GPA's and plum internships or faculty research assistantships … which can be very helpful when it comes time for graduate school admission (or transferring)!
I hope that this gives you some direction … as much as I can offer without knowing more about your child. And if you're interested in paid private counseling to help identify good last-minute matches or worthwhile gap-year opportunities, let me know and I will recommend some next steps.
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