As we move through the Dead Zone of your life when Round 1 applications are due, you may be wondering how much flexibility exists with this whole deadline thing?
The safe way to approach that question is with the answer: NONE.
A small handful of schools are fairly lenient in terms of when your recommenders need to submit by, in order to consider your app in Round 1.
Most schools? Not lenient at all. The entire application, including letters of recommendation, must be complete at the time of the deadline.
And what do we mean by “deadline”? Is it just that calendar day that the school has listed on their site?
Well yeah, but there’s also the issue of deadline TIME. Different schools use different cut-offs. Some are noon local time. Some are 5:00pm. Some are 11:59pm – again, local time to the school. It varies radically.
Maybe you’re working on things up to the last minute and you’re going back over everything with a fine-toothed comb, and you don’t realize that you ran past the deadline by a few minutes by the time you actually clicked Submit. Maybe you assume you’re safe, since you were only a tiny bit late. Surely they have a buffer zone built into those deadline thingies.
Some schools do.
Some schools don’t.
Here’s a report that came in from an understandably distressed BSer during Round 2 Deadline Week this past January:
I just tanked my chances :-(. Last night my application went through, literally, a few seconds after the round 2 deadline. I just got off the phone with admissions and they said that had I called or written an e-mail earlier, I could have been considered in round 2. But since they already ran all of their numbers, I’m definitely in Round 3… the land of few admits. I accept the situation that I’ve chosen to put myself in, but it’s important for me to make a decision: Do I let my application go through for round 3 or do I withdraw my application and reapply round 1?
There have been cases where schools extended their deadlines based on server meltdowns and other technical issues. They’re often flexible when the issue is on their side.
But when it’s on yours? You can’t count on that.
Not only do they have a business to run – they set deadlines for a reason and if they make one exception, then where does it end? – but also, you’re communicating a helluva lot about yourself if you’re “that guy.” So not only does this being-late thing stress you out unnecessarily, but you’re taking such an insane risk that it’s just not funny.
A Round 1 app slipping to Round 2? Not the end of the world – Round 2 is still viable – but man oh man does it change the entirety of your admissions season if that happens. You won’t find out your answer until March. Whereas Round 1 peeps generally get final yes/no in December. That’s a totally different picture you’re dealing with.
It also changes your ability to strategize. A Round 2 app is essentially your last chance. Yes there’s a Round 3 but as the BSer above alluded, there’s not much hope there. If your first and only apps are in Round 2 then you have no opportunity for a do-over. If your strategy is flawed, you only find out after there’s no more chances to regroup and try differently elsewhere. It’s an all-eggs/one-basket scenario that is not in your favor.
So don’t make these rookie mistakes. Get your act together. Fill out that app dataset. Sweat the details. Don’t put this stuff off to the last minute (even though technically every minute, right now, is the last minute).
We know that nobody PLANS to do it that way. But if you KNOW you’re that type of person, well…. Take corrective action NOW. Don’t let yourself end up in this BSer’s shoes.
After all that work…. what a sucky situation.