THE BLOG
10/01/2014 05:53 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

Didn't Apply in July? It's All Good

The college application season got off to an unexpectedly rocky start this year when a number of colleges decided they didn't want to wait until September to start recruiting students. Instead, these colleges sent notices to juniors as early as July, encouraging them to apply as soon as possible -- and in many cases, students applying in the summer would eligible for special scholarships as a reward for their timely behavior.

This approach may have played well with college presidents and boards, but the lack of advanced notice left a very sour taste in the mouths of many:

• School counselors were unable to advise students on how to approach these applications, or to discuss if these colleges were right for some students who received the invitation.
• Many high schools were left scrambling for resources to send transcripts, since many school personnel who handle records are off in the summer months.
• Uninformed students returned for the first day of high school only to discover some of their friends had already started -- or, in some cases, finished -- the college application process, getting an upper hand at some of the same colleges uninformed students were interested in.

Some say colleges moved up the application opportunity to get the attention of students who wouldn't otherwise notice the college in the usual deluge of fall college mail. Others suggest colleges are working off of the long understood notion that students are more likely to attend a college if it's one of the first ones to offer them admission -- and the best way to move up the clock to Yes is by moving up the clock that let them apply.

Given the inconsistent awareness of these summer opportunities, students now applying to these schools are asking themselves a simple question -- is it too late to apply, even though it's October?

The answer is a resounding no, thanks to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Colleges who are members of NACAC must comply with a code known as the Statement of Principles of Good Practice, and when it comes to summer applications, the mandatory section of this code couldn't be clearer:

"All postsecondary members agree they will:

"Not establish any application deadlines for first-year candidates for fall admission prior to October 15 and will give equal consideration to all applications received by that date."

Just to drive the point home, NACAC members approved a clarification of this requirements when they met last month in Indianapolis:

"Colleges and universities may welcome the initiation of applications from first-year students prior to the notification date and earliest deadlines. Any incentives offered, including but not limited to application fee waivers, essay waivers, scholarships, housing, etc., must be honored at least through October 15."

Among other things, this requirement means that any student applying to one of these colleges in the next two weeks:

• Has to be judged by the same academic standards for admission as any student who applied in July
• Is eligible for the same scholarships or other bonuses offered to early applicants
• Can't be told they won't be considered for admission to special programs because all of the seats were taken by July applicants

Any student who feels they may not be given these equal opportunities because other students applied this summer should discuss the issue with the college's admission office. If they don't agree, contact the NACAC member near you who oversees NACAC's principles of good practice.

It's chillier in most places now that it was in July, but that doesn't mean a college gets to leave you out in the cold.