update: My application has already been accepted! Thanks to everyone who has provided me valuable suggestions. I really appreciate your help! This is an important lesson to me: "Don't leave your work until the last minute"

I just missed the my grad school application deadline....... This is the biggest and most serious mistake I ever made in my life...

This university locates in the Central timezone so I assumed its application deadline was 11:59pm CST. Before I submitted my application, I rechecked everything out of a habit. Then I clicked to submit my application at 11:10pm CST but found that it couldn't be submitted because I was unable to choose the term of enrolment. I first thought it was an internet or technical problem so I restarted my search engine a few times but it still didn't work. At that time, I realized that the deadline might be in EST! (confirmed, as I could still choose term of enrollment for my application to another department in the same university whose deadline is at a later time).

I already sent the department with screenshot of my application with time displayed on the side, along with my application materials. I will also be calling the department first thing in the morning tomorrow to make an appeal. Taking the advice provided by the folks who responded to my question, I am also going to contact my prospective advisor for help.

Is there anything else I can do?

  • 3
    I realized that the deadline might be in EST: "might be" is not the same as "is"; do the instructions say anywhere that the deadline is in EST? This is important, since if the instructions don't say this (or if they do say it, but only in in some deeply-buried place that is easily missed), then you would have a very strong case to insist that the department accept your application despite your technically missing the deadline. Of course, even if the timezone was stated clearly, I still think you have a reasonably good case, but in any case it's worth checking what information was provided.
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 2, 2015 at 7:07
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    Great! By the way, I think you're being too hard on yourself. You did not make a mistake, and you did not "assume" anything. You simply followed the instructions. Not being able to read someone else's mind and guess that they meant something totally unexpected that they didn't say and that no reasonable person would think about is not the same as "assuming". Anyway, good luck, I hope they come to their senses and consider your application (and of course that they accept you).
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 2, 2015 at 7:16
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    You're making several mistakes ... interpreting a deadline as midnight (could be when the office closed) ... assuming timezones/daylight saving on some online gateway will be correct ... leaving it until the absolute last minute to make a submission ... and now over-focusing on EST v CST when you should be on the phone asking how you can still get your application in (there'll probably be a way). Dec 2, 2015 at 14:27
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    Thanks @Corvus. My application has been accepted already!
    – Ariana K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 16:34
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    @Brian that's a cool story and I'm really glad things worked out for you, but, for the sake of future students reading this, it's worth pointing out that very probably there are many stories of people who made a similar mistake to you and their stories did not have such a happy ending.
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 3, 2015 at 2:06

2 Answers 2


I just missed the my grad school application deadline....... This is the biggest and most serious mistake I even made in my life...

If that's really true, then what a great life you've had. You'll bounce back from this and be back to sunshine and roses sooner or later.

[D]oes anyone of you know if the department would accept my late application in this instance?

Of course not [i.e., we don't know], because you haven't told us what department you've applied to.

Is there anything else I can do? I am even too shamed to contact my prospective advisor regarding this situation.

Taking you at your word, letting shame prevent you from talking to your prospective advisor is the biggest and most serious mistake you've ever made in your life. Don't do that. Talk to your prospective advisor as soon as possible. (There is no need to write about it in a panicked or alarmed tone. If this really all just happened in the last two hours, it is quite likely that you'll hear from the admissions personnel as well. But calmly informing your prospective advisor of the situation will be helpful. If she tells the department that it was not your fault that your application was not submitted on time, it can only help your case.) If it's very soon, there's at least a reasonable shot that this can be straightened out. The worst case scenario is that you may have to apply elsewhere or up to one year later. This is suboptimal and you should do what you can to avoid it, but it would not ruin your life. Really.

  • 1
    Thank you very much @Pete L. Clark. I agree with you on your suggestion to talk to my prospective advisor! Sooner or later, he will know that I failed to submit my application. In addition, what's more important is my application, instead of my impression to him...I will contact him first thing tomorrow morning. Thanks again!
    – Ariana K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 7:06
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    why does "she" need to be emphasized?
    – Ooker
    Dec 2, 2015 at 11:37
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    @Ooker: I assume the emphasis was added to distinguish between the applicant telling the department, and the (potential) advisor telling the department. The latter case is more beneficial to the applicant. Dec 2, 2015 at 12:04
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    I would add that the lesson here is the typical 'don't leave your work until the last second' story. Chances are your application could have been ready a day earlier, or at least a couple hours, and that would have saved you all this headache. Dec 2, 2015 at 15:08
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    Thanks to Pete L. Clark and @DavidGrinberg, my application has been accepted already!
    – Ariana K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 16:33

You should certainly get in touch with both the department and your prospective advisor, but I would recommend against emphasizing the time zone issue. Without some explicit confirmation, I'm skeptical that it is the real explanation, since it would be strange to set a strict deadline based on a different and earlier time zone from the one the university is in. Instead, I would guess that the deadline was substantially earlier than 11:59pm. For example, Harvard has strict graduate application deadlines at 5pm Eastern time, and I think this is not uncommon. (One plausible interpretation of a December 1 deadline is "during business hours on December 1", although I'd bet that 11:59pm is a more common interpretation.)

If you emphasize the time zone issue, there's a risk they will simply tell you that you weren't close enough to the deadline for the time zone to matter. Instead, I'd recommend focusing on the ambiguity: if they didn't specify the precise time for the deadline, then any reasonable interpretation of "December 1" should be accepted, and 11:59pm CT is a reasonable interpretation.

If they never specified the exact deadline time anywhere, then they screwed up and I think you have a strong case to submit your application slightly late. However, they may well have stated the time in some obscure webpage, and just not have communicated it clearly. Then the situation becomes much murkier, if you could in principle have found the precise deadline time but couldn't reasonably have been expected to find it. If that's the case, then having faculty members at this university on your side may make a big difference (so getting your prospective advisor on board will be a key step).

  • Thanks!! I'll take your advice to argue for the ambiguity of "December 1st" as well as contact my prospective advisor for help. Thanks again for your time!
    – Ariana K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 8:11
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    @aprilceng Don't argue. Do a mea culpa, tell them it's your mistake that you wanted to apply at the last minute (since you were nervous, wanted to be sure you had everything in order, etc), and that you apologize for the extra work you're causing them. But whatever you do, don't spam them with emails.
    – Peter
    Dec 2, 2015 at 9:25
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    Thanks Anonymous Mathematicia and @Peter, my application has been accepted already!
    – Ariana K.
    Dec 2, 2015 at 16:32
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    @aprilceng Congratulations
    – Peter
    Dec 2, 2015 at 19:55

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