Well, it's the middle of May. The traditional May 1 college enrollment deadline for new students is long gone, typically marking the end of the admission season.
Let me ask you college-bound high school seniors a few questions:
- Are you unhappy with the college where you enrolled?
- Did you, for some reason, not complete your college application process?
- Have you changed your mind about a gap year and are now without a college to attend?
- Have you visited your enrolled college a second time and felt that you made a mistake?
- Would you love to have second chance at applying to college this year?
There also may be other circumstances that have put you in a position of needing a college to attend or simply wanting a better choice. Needing a college to attend, naturally, is the more “desperate" situation in which to be.
There's no need to be desperate. There is an amazingly large group of colleges throughout the United States that are still looking for first-year students to grace their dorm rooms. There are multiple reasons for this.
Get the Scoop on College "Yields"
The term “yield" may be the main reason that these schools have still kept their doors open for you. A college's yield is a percentage calculated by dividing the number of enrollments by the number of admission slots granted. For example, let's say a college sends out 1,000 acceptances. Then, by the traditional May 1 enrollment deadline, 250 of those accepted applicants have officially enrolled. Thus, that college's yield is 25 percent.
Based on complicated accounting and economic formulas, colleges know what their target yield should be in order to balance the books and keep things running smoothly from a fiscal perspective. When the yield does not meet expectations, many colleges keeps the doors open. This grants both colleges and applicants who are still looking for options a second chance to improve their respective situations.
When yields fall short for extended periods, colleges enter a negative economic spiral and may have to take remedial actions, such as faculty cuts, departmental shrinkage, less aggressive physical plant expansion, etc. One of the key cutbacks happens in the area of financial aid. If you follow the higher education press, you'll occasionally see reports of small colleges declaring bankruptcy and eventually closing their doors for good.
For example, here's the opening of an article from InsideHigherEd.com that gives an excellent overview of how yield issues can crush a college:
Recent closures make it more likely a trend of private college consolidation has started. Institutions feeling particular pressure are small colleges, those in the Midwest and Roman Catholic institutions located away from Catholic population centers.
Those forecasting a wave of college closures find themselves with a glut of recent anecdotes to support their story.
It has not been a good fall for small, private liberal arts colleges. Last week, St. Gregory's University in Oklahoma said it is closing at the end of the semester. The news came on the heels of a similar announcement by the Memphis College of Art in late October, an announcement that itself arrived just weeks after Grace University in Omaha, Neb., unveiled plans to shut down.
Flip back a little farther in the calendar, to when Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind., decided in February to suspend academic operations at the end of the spring semester. Now, only 17 people work at the college as it tries to come up with plans for a future incarnation, even as it has been selling off its assets in hopes of raising funds to pay for those plans.
Consult the NACAC List
For those colleges that have not yet entered this level of economic difficulty, there is one straightforward way to attract more enrollments: NACAC's annual College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students (formerly the Space Availability Survey).
“NACAC" stands for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. According to the Update's introduction, it “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. 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 3 public release date, so check back periodically to see additional colleges still accepting applications."
Okay. So now we know where help in finding a college to attend is available. If you are one of those still searching, what can you expect to find on NACAC's space-available update?
Since I'm a native of Pennsylvania and have visited a number of Pa. colleges, I decided to take a quick tour of which Pa. colleges still welcome students. Frankly, I was shocked at some of the schools on the list -- I found high-quality colleges that for some reason have not satisfied their enrollment goals for the 2018-2019 school year.
I've spent some considerable time on the Juniata campus and have watched it grow over the years. My connection with Juniata College comes from the other college I mentioned, Lycoming College. I enjoyed my freshman year at Lycoming before serving three years in the military during the Vietnam Era and then transferring to Penn State-University Park. I was on Lycoming's tennis team and Juniata was on our schedule that year (we beat them!). Anyway, I got to see the campus in the mid-1960s. Today, compared to then, Juniata's campus is very much improved over what it was back then. It's known for its life sciences disciplines (“pre-med") and places an impressive number of its graduates into medical school.
Lycoming College may be one of Pennsylvania's best-kept college secrets. It's a highly nurturing environment that offers both a gorgeous campus in a lovely setting and a liberal arts menu taught by a warm, welcoming faculty that can prepare young minds for any number of career paths. (Hmm. Maybe I should have worked as a college marketer.)
I can say the same for Juniata College, but these are just two schools among the many on NACAC's space-available list under Pennsylvania. Imagine the admission jewels to be found in the other states!
Take Note of Opening Types
Aside from listing colleges' size, location, type and contact information, NACAC's listing also includes indicators involving the types of openings that are available (“Freshman: Yes"), whether or not financial aid is available, if transfers are accepted and if housing is available. With all this information on-hand, what should you do if you're still looking?
Your search should be exactly the same as it would be (or was) for anyone looking for a college in which to enroll. Narrow your search by, among other criteria, region, state, size, aid, housing and (possibly) cost and financial aid. Then, do your homework by visiting the colleges' websites for a general feel of the school. If still interested, contact the admissions office. All that information is provided in the listings.
One other more time-consuming -- but more finely tuned -- search method would be to use College Board's college search tool to find a list of candidate schools and then see if any cross-match with NACAC's space-available list. The College Board's search tool has a number of admission criteria that may be able to direct you to a great match on NACAC fairly quickly.
There you have it -- the answer to the dilemma “I want to go to college this fall but I have nowhere to go!" Seek and you shall find!