There are several different types of deadlines for consideration, and often, at least two per institution: early action, early decision, regular decision, and rolling. There is a general timing schedule for each type of deadline, but this can vary a few days or so from institution to institution. These deadlines, or what is due, include all necessary components of the college application to be reviewed for admission: the application itself (information and writing), transcript/s, letter/s of recommendation, and a résumé and standardized test scores, where applicable.
Regardless of the deadline type or timing, plan ahead. Deadlines are strictly enforced. Work on the essay writing and résumé, explore and fill out the online application, and connect with possible recommenders and school administrators to be ready to submit comfortably in advance of the deadline.
College Application Deadline Types and Dates
Common Dates: November 1st, November 15th, December 1st
“Early” refers to the timing of applying and receiving a decision—in the fall and late fall/early winter, respectively—and “action” refers to the noncommittal nature of the decision (i.e., it is a nonbinding decision). Early action also includes single-choice early action and restrictive early action. There are differences between early action, single-choice early action, and restrictive early action, but the common denominator is that they are all nonbinding. You can learn more about Early Action college applications here. However, know the differences and what each school offers. Although some early action deadlines can be as late as December 15th, some may be as early as October 10th. Below are examples of early action, single-choice early action, and restrictive early action deadlines.
Early Decision 1
Common Deadlines: November 1st, November 15th
As with early action, early decision 1, usually simply referred to as early decision, happens in the fall of each year, and decisions are released in mid-December. The significant difference here is the type of deadline. “Decision” means this is binding; applicants may only apply to one early decision 1 school and, if admitted, will attend.
Early Decision 2
Common Deadlines: January 1st, January 15th
Early decision 2 offers the same elements as early decision 1, but with a deadline and decision release date approximately two months later.
Common Deadlines: January 1st, February 1st, February 15th
The majority of applicants to college submit their applications by the regular decision deadline. The regular decision deadline affords applicants more time to gather their materials and submit them. If this deadline is missed, there may be an opportunity to submit to certain schools with a rolling deadline or a later regular decision deadline. Below are examples of schools with regular decision deadlines in the winter months.
Beginning as early as September 1st, rolling admissions are open until a class is complete. However, look out for priority deadlines, which favor applicants submitting earlier.
Some schools may have a priority deadline for early, regular, or rolling admissions. It is in the applicant’s best interest to have the application submitted by any priority deadline offered to have a competitive edge as spots fill up. Priority deadlines can be as early as November 1st and as late as February 1st.
Other College Application Deadlines
Certain applicants will submit a portfolio of art or another talent or activity. These deadlines are typically a month earlier than the application deadline, as they are usually reviewed by college faculty.
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens for students on October 1st and closes on June 30th. As with rolling admissions, completing the FAFSA earlier is better, as applicants may have a financial aid package earlier or have more significant opportunities for scholarships, helping them make a college choice sooner. February 1st is the priority deadline for the FAFSA.
Scholarships and Special Programs
Research the institution if considering applying for any scholarships or special programs of interest. Scholarship and special programs typically have deadlines at the time of applying or after.
When to Apply
The college admission process should start for applicants months before deadlines, identify schools of interest, and begin working on components of the application.
Although there are general deadlines for each type of application—early action in the fall, regular decision in the winter—identify the specific deadline for each institution. Whether applying for early action or early decision, aim to have materials ready by November 1st for early and for regular by January 1st.
Most decisions for early admissions are released mid-December and for regular decision and rolling, by April 1st. The national response date is May 1st, 2024 for depositing to and selecting a college. If you need any additional assistance navigating the application process and these deadlines, please don’t hesitate to contact us!