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Find College Options for Late Applicants

Kelsey Sheehy

Decision day has come and gone, but that doesn't mean prospective college students are out of luck.

As of Friday afternoon, 211 U.S. schools are still accepting applicants for fall 2013, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling's annual Space Availability Survey. Of those schools, 205 have seats available for incoming freshmen and nearly every one has openings for transfer students.

The bulk of colleges accepting late applicants are small private institutions that enroll fewer than 5,000 students, but large state schools such as the University of Arizona, the University of Iowa and Colorado State University still have space available. The list is not exhaustive, so college hopefuls should call the schools they are interested in to see if they have openings.

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Students better act fast, though, because the vacancy signs at these schools will quickly disappear, says Leigh Mlodzik, dean of admission at Ripon College in Wisconsin, which is not on the NACAC list.

"We will accept academically qualified students as long as we can accommodate them in our residence halls and in our classrooms," he says. "As students think about applying late to different schools, the sooner the better is the best rule of thumb for them."

Housing and financial aid availability could also dry up if students delay their applications any further, says Anna Pflug, dean of admissions at Northwest University in Washington. Many schools have early deadlines for merit scholarships and need-based aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, but students can - and should - still apply for federal financial aid.

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Northwest reports that housing and financial aid are still available, but at least 30 colleges still taking applications list financial aid availability as "limited" and 43 say the same about student housing, according to the list, which will be updated as open spaces fill up until June 28.

Late applicants who earn admission should be prepared for things to move quickly, Pflug says.

"The process is expedited," she says. "The best thing a student can do if they are in this situation is to remain in close contact with their enrollment counselor ... [who] will give them clear instructions on their next steps all throughout the process."

While students should act quickly in order to be considered for late admission, they should first consider why they missed the regular deadline in the first place, says Melissa Lamb Assael, founder and president of Admission Ambition, a New York-based college consulting company.

"Not all students are ready to move on to college right out of high school," says Assael. "Perhaps a productive gap year, attending a community college or trade school might be the better course of action."

Community colleges often accept applications until the start of classes, and many partner with nearby four-year colleges to allow students to easily transfer credits down the road.

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Whatever route students choose, they can be reassured that they are not alone and several doors are still open to them, says Mlodzik at Ripon.

"We see all types of students applying for admission late. High-achieving students that did not get into a reach school, students that thought they had found the right fit early in the process and second guess their choice and students who are just late with their college search," he says. "They typically all have anxiety at this point ... [but] they still have viable options available to them."

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