Admissions

Check These Tips if You Need a College Admissions Plan C

Andrew Neel/Pexels

What should you do when your admissions Plan A and Plan B both fall short? Well, there's always Plan C. If you need a Plan C next spring, you'll be glad that you bookmarked this article.


What are all these alphabetic plans anyway? Plan A, of course, is the ideal plan. That's where your admissions strategy works, maybe even perfectly, if you get into your first-choice school. You may accomplish that by successfully applying Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA). Maybe you'll get in Regular Decision (RD) or after an ED/EA deferral. Finally, maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones plucked from the waitlist.

If you're a regular reader of College Confidential's Guidance articles, maybe you've already seen my post about incorporating a Plan B, which is intended to help salvage a ED/EA Plan A. I wrote:

There are a lot of "D" words associated with applying ED or EA: December, drama, decisions, deferral, and, unfortunately, denial. Naturally, you're all hoping for the "A" word — Accepted! — but that's not always the case. There are ways to cope, though. Rejection is hard to take, but it is not the end of the world, and silver linings have been known to appear

Your early application(s) may be tripped up by one of those "D" words. If so, my advice may help you convert a D into that esteemed "A." Let's hope so.

My Plan B article is primarily aimed at scoring admission to a first-choice school that isn't quite ready to say, "Yes!" in the late fall. I suggest certain actions that can result in a thumbs-up in the spring. Better late than never, right? The Plan B approach can also offer help for those who are wait-listed in the spring.

Sometimes unfortunate ED/EA applicants are deferred in December to the RD pool for a spring decision and then shuffled to the waitlist. That's probably the most agonizing scenario for early applicants. However, a Plan B approach can, in certain circumstances — especially now during these exceptional pandemic times — help wait-listed applicants get in.

Why Do You Need a Plan C?

Murphy's Law states that "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and usually at the worst possible time." In the spring of 2021, if Murphy's Law has come to sit on your college process, you may find yourself without a single, or even remotely viable, college admission choice. Don't panic! That's when you'll be glad you bookmarked this article. Here's why:

Each May, the National Association for College Admission Counseling compiles a list of colleges that still have space available. Some of these schools have application deadlines that have officially passed, yet they are still accepting applications anyway. This is your antidote to Murphy's Law.

If you go to the (current) space-available list, you'll find this introduction:

NACAC's annual College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students (formerly the Space Availability Survey) is a voluntary listing of NACAC member postsecondary institutions that are still accepting applications from prospective freshman and/or transfer students for the upcoming fall term. Now in its 33rd year, the College Openings Update is designed as a tool for counselors, parents and others assisting students who have not yet completed the college admission process. Typically, colleges will continue to join the update after the May 5 public release date, so check back periodically to see additional colleges still accepting applications

This is important information that embraces the higher education world at large. You can search the globe for openings, both by state in the U.S. and by country, among other qualifiers. What do you find when you do a search?

Of course, this is November and openings for spring of 2021 will be different. I'm presenting this now so that you can become familiar with the format in case you need a Plan C. I chose to search college openings in Massachusetts. Here are just two of the many I found among the listings:

Bard College at Simon's Rock (MA)

  • Enrollment: 1-1,000
  • Private (nonprofit)
  • Freshman: Yes
  • Transfer: Yes
  • Housing: Yes
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Contact: Cynthia Jacobs cjacobs@simons-rock.edu
  • Phone: 413-644-4700
  • Website: https://simons-rock.edu/

Emerson College (MA)

  • Enrollment: 1,000-4,999
  • Private (nonprofit)
  • Freshman: No
  • Transfer: Yes
  • Housing: Yes
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Contact: Undergraduate Admission Office admission@emerson.edu
  • Phone: 617-824-8600
  • Website: http://www.emerson.edu

Some Colleges Keep Offering Merit Money in May

Another Plan C resource to explore next spring is Forbes. This past June, writer Matt Schifrin wrote 169 Best Colleges Still Searching For 2020 Applicants And Offering Tuition Discounts. About his list, he said:

Last year 521 colleges reported they had failed to attract enough students as of the traditional May 1 deadline. This year, Covid-19 threw an unexpected and ugly curveball to colleges and universities, and despite many schools extending their deposit deadlines to June and July, already 776 colleges have reported to NACAC that they still have openings — a 49 percent increase. For many tuition-dependent schools, failing to bring in enough freshman and transfer students causes immediate severe financial distress, and many colleges are likely to close or be forced to merge with other schools … And regarding the Forbes list:

Below you will find a list of these schools annotated by Forbes' own America's Top Colleges ranking, which awards colleges based on academics, experiences, career success and lowest student debt. And for those concerned about the viability of some of the colleges among the 169, we have included our 2019 Financial Grades, which measures the operational soundness and balance sheet strength of private not-for-profit colleges according to nine variables ranging from endowment per student to operating margin and instructional expenses per student. Our financial data comes from the Department of Education and is thus two-years old. Post-Covid-19, many schools have seen their financial health deteriorate and in general, any college with a financial grade of C or lower probably has a challenging future ahead of it ...

Here's a sampling of how Forbes presents its space-available schools:


If you need even more Plan C resources, check these links next spring. Your college process arsenal now includes both a Plan B and a Plan C, but … here's hoping that you'll never need them!