By the time many people start thinking about going back to school, they realize they’re too late to apply that year. In most cases, universities accept applications nearly a year in advance. It’s also important to realize that different universities will have different deadlines for application, so you might need to send your applications at different times if you’re applying to multiple places. Researching well in advance is the first step to improving your odds of getting accepted.
Most universities have similar deadlines within a few weeks of each other for each semester. If you plan to enroll in your college for the fall semester, you’ll generally need to send the application by December. Some colleges might even require it as early as November if you plan to get an early acceptance. If you want to enroll for the spring semester instead, you can often apply later in the year, but not all universities allow students to enter the school midway through the year. You will need to check in advance.
Other Timing Considerations
Getting the timing right for your college enrollment can be a little tricky. In addition to the college application itself, you’ll also need to apply for financial aid. This can only be completed after you’ve filled out your Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork, which requires tax information from the current year. This can give you a very narrow window to work within.
Fortunately, you can fill out your FAFSA and apply for financial aid separately from your college application. This allows you to apply to school in December, then fill out the FAFSA and make financial aid applications in the early spring. You only need to fill out the FAFSA once, but you may need to apply separately to different loans, grants and scholarships.
You’ll also need to have taken any tests, such as the SAT or GRE, needed to include the scores with your application. If you’re applying to college for the first time long after high school, be sure to check with the university to see whether your SAT or ACT scores are required on the application. These tests are usually taken in the spring of your junior year in high school so you’ll have the scores well in advance of your college application, but some wait until the fall semester of their senior year to take the test instead.
Finally, you’ll need to keep an eye on the deadlines for any other programs for which you might be enrolling. For example, enrollment for graduate school teaching assistant positions sometimes have different deadlines than the school’s main enrollment or financial aid deadline.
Getting Your Application in on Time
There are a few ways to increase your chances of having your application received and accepted:
— Plan well in advance
Be prepared for it to take at least a year to get into college, so start as early as possible. Make a checklist or devise another way of keeping yourself organized.
— Keep all of your paperwork together
Financial aid information, test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation and anything else you might need for the application should all be kept together in its own folder or box so you can access it easily.
— Check each individual University’s requirements
Different schools will have different deadlines. It might help to make a chart to figure out which schools have the earliest deadlines and what they require so you can send applications on time.
— Apply to multiple colleges
Even if you have only one first choice school, go ahead and apply to a few backup colleges. You don’t have to enroll in a school just because you’re accepted, and it’ll make it easier for you to get into college if your first choice school is filled.
— Apply as early as possible to improve your chances of getting in
Some colleges accept applications all year until their available places are filled; you might still be accepted, but it will be for a subsequent year.
If you’re applying for an online college, these rules may vary. Because online classes can have a very large enrollment, it might be easier to get enrolled even if you’re applying late. Some online colleges may not even operate on a semester system, so deadlines might be different from regular schools. As with any other university, the best way to find out an online college’s requirements is to check its website for details.
College applications can be a hassle, but advance planning will help make it as painless as possible. By researching your colleges, gathering your materials and sending applications on time, you increase your chances of getting into the program you want.