Jan 6, 2017
Well, we thought we would be starting
a new series for the new year, but it turns out there are one or
two things we would like to say to the seniors who are looking at
their college prospects now--albeit a bit late--with newly serious
eyes. I was talking to one of my best friends recently.
He has twin girls, who were just finishing up their applications
when we chatted on December 27. He said that one of the girls
was feeling a bit blue as she looked over the list of colleges she
had applied to and worried that none of them seemed to be the
I found myself giving him two messages for his daughter.
The first is the message that any
concerned parent would send, and it went something like this:
Don’t worry. There are many colleges out there that would be
a fine choice for you. There isn’t just one perfect
college. You could be happy at any number of colleges,
including the ones on your list, and you likely will be.
Her father added that he thought there was really no way to know how good a fit a college might be until you were actually enrolled and living on the campus and taking classes and making friends and involving yourself in activities, etc. Her dad is a smart guy and, in this case, exactly right.
However much you think you know about a college from reading the website and visiting the campus and attending a few sample classes and talking to kids who go there will be nothing compared to that first month as a student there. And really that first semester as a student there, because that first month can be atypically difficult, especially if the college is far from home. So, yes, applicants should do their homework about a college before applying (our new book is designed to help high school students do exactly that), but applicants also have to accept that fact that they can’t know everything in advance.
Parents, if you attended college and had a choice of colleges yourself, after the acceptances came in, do you ever think about how your life might have been different if you had chosen a different college? I really don’t, but did so on the occasion of preparing this episode.
This will surprise you, Marie (well-known Barnard alumna), but I very nearly chose to go to Smith College or Pembroke College (now fully merged into Brown University). Yes, two women’s colleges! I liked the idea of women’s colleges as a high school senior more than I do now. So, was I right then? Perhaps I was.
I also thought hard about going to two great Southern universities--Vanderbilt and Southern Methodist (my mother’s alma mater). Although I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I spent all my summers in Texas at my grandmother’s. I loved the idea of going to college in the South and believe, to this day, that I would have thoroughly enjoyed either of those universities.
But, as our listeners know, I chose Cornell. In fairness, my father, an Ivy Leaguer himself, chose Cornell for me. I could tell that he wanted me to go to Cornell, though he never said it, so I did. I don’t regret my choice for a minute. Was it a perfect choice? Well, a near-perfect choice, except for the weather. But I have to believe that any other choice would have made me quite happy, too. They might have been just as perfect.
Maybe the key here is to get great colleges onto your list of college options so that you apply only to places that you would really like to attend. It is comforting to go into the waiting period of the next few months knowing that you could be happy at any of the colleges on your list. That’s one reason we spend a lot of time talking to you about options, taking you on our virtual nationwide college tour (Episodes 27 through 53), going through the deal breakers in your decision making (see our first book), and doing the research you need on each college option (see our upcoming book).
So, that brings me to my second message to my friend’s
daughter: If you are really concerned (and not just fretting
over nothing, as kids sometimes do), there are still a lot of great
colleges accepting applications. I have to admit that when I
Googled “colleges still accepting applications,” I couldn’t believe
the number that came up. Sure, some have deadlines of January
10 or 15 or 31, but some have deadlines in February, March, April,
May, and beyond. Yes, for the fall of 2017. And you
still have some time to submit applications even to those with
January deadlines. One note of caution: I double
checked the deadlines of all the colleges that were supplied by my
Google search and found many of them to be wrong. So please
check out the actual website of any college that you might be
There is no way to generalize about the colleges with later deadlines, but I have noticed that quite a few of them are the branch campuses of large public universities, though some great flagships also have relatively late application deadlines. Other than that, you can find small liberal arts colleges, larger liberal arts universities, faith-based colleges, HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), single-sex colleges--really, just about anything. They are large and small. They are urban, suburban, small town, and rural. They include some highly selective colleges, some selective colleges, and some not-so-selective colleges. They include colleges in the North, South, East, and West (including as west as it gets).
Let me read you a sample of colleges with late application deadlines to prove our point. Here are just some of the colleges--including truly great colleges--you can apply to by January 15 (and really 10 days should be plenty of time to pull some of these off):
Need more time? Well, here are colleges with February deadlines (albeit many are on February 1, but some are on February 15):
I was going to stop there, but there are some that I would like to mention with deadlines in March (yes, March!). You really have no excuse not to apply to one of these if you are interested:
Okay, you get the point. But, believe us that we could
name colleges with deadlines in April, May, and even June,
including some that we have recommended in our virtual nationwide
college tour--colleges like SUNY New Paltz, Old Dominion
University, the University of Iowa, Louisiana State University, and
the University of Central Florida.
So, parents of high school seniors, don’t despair. If your teenager is truly questioning his or her choices now, it’s not too late. Again, the options that we have just read are a sample of colleges still accepting applications (and there are many options that we have not read). Lots of these options would be great for any student. So, if you and your teenager are so inclined, take an hour or two now and have a last look. It might not change any final decision your teenager will eventually make about where to go to college, but it might let you all sleep better for the next few months.
As always, call us, if you could use some free advice!