Missed a Deadline? Here’s What to Do

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By Kate Sitarz
Last updated on August 10, 2023

Deadlines are an important part of US university life. Here is what to do if you miss a deadline for university admission, financial aid application, payments, or an assignment submission.

A female international student from Asia wears glasses and sits on the floor in front of a laptop and notebook as she works on a paper before the deadline

Meeting university deadlines is important to keeping your academic and career plans on track. Meeting deadlines is also important for university admission and financial aid administrators, who create deadlines in order to make their plans for the year, including how and when to award scholarships and grants, allocate loans, and determine work-study jobs. Missing deadlines can put you at a significant disadvantage.

However, sometimes it is simply not possible to meet deadlines, such as when a health crisis or natural disaster strikes. If that is the case for you, you still have some options. Here are common deadlines for university students and what to do if you miss one.  

University Admission or Transfer Application Deadline

When you are applying for admission to a college or university, you may have several options for application deadlines, including early decision, early action, and regular decision. Some may even have late admission, meaning the school accepts applications until the start of the fall semester. Regular decision is typically around the beginning of January for start in the fall (so, January 2023 for enrollment in Fall 2023). This is usually the last opportunity to apply if a school does not have a late admission policy. 

If you want to transfer universities, transfer application deadlines will depend on whether you are hoping to start in the fall or spring semester. Typically, transfer deadlines are in October or November for a start date in spring the following year (so, an October 2023 deadline would be for enrollment in Spring 2024). However, some schools may have deadlines as early as August. For fall start dates, applications are typically due somewhere between February and June of the same year (so, a February 2024 deadline would be for enrollment in Fall 2024). 

The first step is to determine the application deadlines for each school where you want to apply. Not all deadlines are the same. Add them to your calendar and set reminders. If possible, submit your materials before the deadline.

If you are late with your application, the school may not process the application. It could also jeopardize your financial aid opportunities. According to Campus Explorer, if you submit a late application, your chances both for admission and financial aid are reduced by at least 50%. 

You can always ask the admissions office if they are willing to accept your application late, but be prepared for a “no” in response. Alternatively, your Shorelight advisor may be able to suggest schools that have later deadlines and/or late application policies. 

One of your best options, particularly if you are hoping for financial aid, is to look at the deadline for the following semester and get your materials in early. However, for some schools you may have to wait an entire year to apply. If that is the case, you can start with a program like American Collegiate Live. This program allows you earn credits toward your US degree from anywhere you call home. Then, once you apply the next semester or year, you can head to campus without having lost any time toward earning your degree.   

Financial Aid Application Deadline

As you review college application documents, you may see a lot of schools with deadlines for “FAFSA.” The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as FAFSA, is intended for US students. There are, however, a few cases where international students may qualify for financial aid from the US government

Instead, many schools may have you fill out the International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA) or the CSS Profile. Other schools will have their own forms. Check each school’s requirements as they may vary. A Shorelight advisor can help you make sense of the financial aid process for your preferred schools. 

The deadline for financial aid is also generally the deadline to be considered for scholarships, including merit, talent, and athletic scholarships. So, as with the application deadline, you do not want to miss the financial aid application deadline. 

If you do miss the financial aid application deadline, your first step is to ask the school’s financial aid office whether you can submit your materials late. Schools may still consider you for scholarships, or they may not.

Even if you are considered for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities, you may be left with whatever funding is left over (i.e., any money that has not already been awarded to other students who met the financial aid deadline). Your best bet, if you hope to receive financial aid of any kind, is to submit your materials before the deadline. You can consider waiting to apply until the next semester or year, but there is still no guarantee of financial aid, so you need to decide whether delaying your course of study is worth it.

You can also research whether your home country offers scholarships to study in the US or if there are international organizations that offer funding. It is also worth searching for scholarships on websites like International Scholarships to see if you meet any of the qualifications. You may find scholarships available for students pursuing a specific course of study, for example.

If you are intent on studying in the US and not waiting to reapply at a future date, there are student loan options. However, many loans require a US co-signer (a US citizen with the financial means to pay back your loan if you do not pay it back). The loans that do not require a co-signer have high interest rates.

Payment Deadlines

Universities generally bill students for tuition, fees, and other charges at the beginning of each term. Payment deadlines vary by school, so as soon as you know which school you are attending, add the deadlines to your calendar and set reminders. 

Typically, you will have a deadline for your first deposit that secures your place in the upcoming class. That deposit will be applied to the total amount due at the start of your first semester.

If you are late with payments, it may prevent you from registering for classes until the payment is made. This can prevent you from getting into classes you need or want to take, or at your preferred times. It can even prevent you from being able to receive a diploma or a transcript if you have not paid your bill before graduation. 

Late payments may also incur additional fees. These fees may be a flat fee, or may recur each billing cycle until you pay your bill, or may be a combination of both. Fees will vary by school. Late payment may even impact your financial aid!

If you are concerned about meeting a billing deadline, talk with your university’s financial aid department and/or your Shorelight advisor as soon as possible. They may have options like a payment plan that make it easier for you to pay your bill. Payment plans generally break up the one large semester payment into smaller payments you can pay each month versus in one lump sum. Payment plans may have fees for enrolling in the process.

Late Submission of Assignments

Once you are on campus, you will have plenty of deadlines for assignments and exams. If your professor provides a syllabus at the beginning of the semester with key dates, add them to your calendar with reminders so you can keep track of these dates as they approach. 

As you are assigned projects, papers, and the like, add the deadlines immediately to your calendar and break out steps you need to take along the way to meet those deadlines. For example, if you have a paper due in a week, but it requires a trip to the library before you can begin writing, schedule that trip to the library several days before the deadline!

There are very few valid reasons for late submission of assignments. Talk to your professor if you think there will be an issue meeting a deadline. If you think you may have a conflict (for example, a paper is assigned, but you know you may have to make a trip back home for a family event), immediately talk to your professor during office hours or after class. You do not want to wait until the day before an assignment is due to ask for an extension.

If you do ask for an extension and are granted additional time, expect that your grade may be reduced because you did not meet the original deadline. And while you always want to put in your best work, make sure this assignment reflects your best abilities. 

In addition to tutoring for academic subjects, Shorelight academic advisors can help you find resources and develop your skills for managing multiple projects and assignments. They can also give you advice on how to navigate situations where you may need an extension and situations where you may need to reprioritize your to-do list in order to get everything done. 

Deadlines of any kind are critical, and you should do everything you can to plan for them and meet them on time. Shorelight Signature Services has a helpful and downloadable guide that explains deadlines you should add to your calendar.

Once you add important deadline dates to your calendar, consider adding reminders and even a self-created deadline a week or two before the official deadline so you have buffer in case anything happens. And, as with any deadline, it is a best practice to be early rather than on time! 

Expert Shorelight counselors can help you stay on track >