Last-Minute College Options Abound for Fall 2011

Nearly 300 schools are still accepting applications—even in tornado-wracked states.

By SHARE

If you've yet to secure a spot on a college roster for fall 2011, you still have hundreds of options. 

Though the traditional college decision deadline of May 1 has come and gone, at least 293 colleges and universities are still accepting freshman and transfer applicants, according to a Space Availability Survey list published May 4 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). 

Comprised of schools that either didn't fill all open spots for next year's freshmen class or that simply have application deadlines later than the May 1 norm, the list is dominated by private institutions such as Virginia's Roanoke College, Georgia's Agnes Scott College, and Florida's Eckerd College. Some well-known public universities, including Arizona State University and the University of Maryland—College Park, are still seeking freshmen or transfer applicants this year, too. 

"A lot of times, people think if there's any schools left, they can't be good schools," says Todd Johnson, consultant at College Admissions Partners. "It's not going to be the top liberal arts colleges or the top national universities, but there are some good, solid schools on there." 

[See the U.S. News rankings for best liberal arts colleges and best national universities.]

Published annually and available through July 1, the list includes at least 50 more schools this year than last, as of 4 p.m. on May 4. Even more schools may be added in the coming weeks if new spaces become available. On the list, students can check if financial aid and housing options still exist, and whether freshmen or transfer applicants—or both—are welcome. (The University of Maryland—College Park is one of about 15 schools on the list no longer seeking freshmen for the fall.) Though components of financial aid pools may already be depleted, all but one school on the list had at least limited monetary help available for new applicants as of May 4, and nearly all still had some housing options. 

[Find out which colleges draw the most transfer students.] 

Students looking to stay close to home—or, at least, in the same state—will likely be in luck, as this year's list includes schools in 44 different states. Illinois, where 19 colleges and universities are still collecting applications, is particularly well represented. 

The list may also signal options for students in weather-torn areas. Over the past few weeks, tornadoes have ravaged parts of the South, including areas in Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Each state still has a handful of colleges accepting applicants. 

In Alabama, a storm that devastated much of the state missed the campus of the University of Alabama—Huntsville, a school on the availability list that accepts freshmen and transfer applications through June 1 each year. 

"We are here as a resource for those whose studies may have been interrupted or disrupted," says Ingrid Hayes, the school's assistant provost for enrollment services. "Some students naturally will be a bit apprehensive, or may have housing difficulties, so they may be looking for other places to study." 

But even with the hundreds of remaining options this year, students and parents should not despair if none of the schools feel right, counselors advise. Spending a semester or two at local community colleges, which typically have open admissions until the start of classes, is often a good way to get credit for basic courses. For those who don't mind a gamble, public universities with vacancies in certain classes sometimes open registration up to non-matriculated students near the start of the fall term, says Susie Watts, founder of admissions counseling firm College Direction. 

"For some kids, it gives them a chance to get their foot in the door [and] take classes, and oftentimes, if they do well, they can either matriculate into that school or have those grades to transfer to a different school," Watts says. 

For others, a gap year may be an attractive route. It is counselor Johnson's "favorite option" for some high school seniors with whom he examines the availability list.