A reader and college application review client recently asked me about applying to Sciences at the last minute:
Yesterday I finally submitted my application. I am worried to be so close to the deadline as Sciences Po always advises people to not to submit at the last minute. It that because of the amount of work they receive or because doing it says something negative about you?
At Sciences Po, the earlier you submit your documents, the earlier you will hear if you were accepted or not. Those who apply early are likely to get a decision in just 2-3 weeks. If you apply later, you can expect to wait up to 3 months!
This is because of what’s called “rolling admissions.” With rolling admissions, applications are reviewed as they are received.
For Sciences Po, you can submit your application anytime between December and mid-June. (Of course, keep in mind that there are various deadlines if you want to apply for a scholarship or dual degree program.)
Rolling admissions gives flexibility both to applicants and to the school.
Above all, it allows the school to reduce their work of last-minute application reviewing.
The people who review college applications are, after all, only human. And there are only so many university officials who are willing to sludge through and evaluate hundreds of applicants. (Trust me — after helping with scholarship applicants for the McDermott program at UT Dallas, I can assure you that it can be a grueling process. Although, it’s always a pleasure when you come across the really good applicants!)
But, is there a disadvantage to sending in your application at the last minute?
First of all, deadlines are there for a reason. There can really be no punishment for respecting the deadline, even if you submit at 11:59pm on the last possible day.
Of course, I know what you are thinking.
If the number of students is capped, then surely some good students who apply at the last minute will be turned away. Right?
What you might not realize is that colleges generally have a very good idea about what students they want to admit. They also tend to have some flexibility when it comes to numbers.
In 2014, Sciences Po decided to admit an additional 104 French students and 120 international students to their Master’s programs. Sure, the decision to admit more students was strategic, but the decision to admit exactly 224 more students? I’m sure that number could have easily been 225 if another talented student had applied — even if they’d submitted their application at the last possible second.
Here are the real disadvantages to applying at the last minute:
- Your internet could crash or a file could be deleted, barring you from meeting the deadline.
- You might miscalculate the time in the French time zone.
- You’ll wait significantly longer to find out whether or not you are accepted. (Which, as an international student, can be significant if you might need extra time to plan for your visa, finances, or other arrangements.)
In my experience with other programs (not specifically Sciences Po), I know that students who submit their documents early tend to have a higher % chance of acceptance.
HOWEVER that is probably because applicants who apply early tend to be better applicants.
Students who are seriously interested in a school are less likely to procrastinate. In contrast, an applicant who is clearly not a good fit might feel more hesitant to submit.
Inevitably though, many, many good applicants will also apply at the last minute. And it may not be because of procrastination so much as perfectionism.
Maybe you are reading and re-reading that essay before submitting. Maybe you are working with me to get your work reviewed and increase your chances of acceptance. Far from making you a bad applicant, that would make you top notch!
If that’s your case, then relax.
Ultimately, the very best applicants will get an offer. Regardless of when they hit “send.”