College Application Timeline: Defining the Deadlines

For many months, students have been working on their college process. From searching for colleges to visits, to writing a personal statement, there has been substantial commitment toward their future.

And as they approach the final leg of the process, an equally important decision emerges:

When do I apply?

College Application Timeline: Defining the Deadlines | Image

It is essential to have a strong understanding of the various application types: Early Decision, Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, Priority Decision, Regular Decision, and Rolling Admissions.

So, which application type is for you? Let’s take a close look…

Early Decision

Typical Deadline Dates: November 1st, November 15th, December 1st

Most all Early Decision deadlines take place early in the fall, leaving less time to prepare materials than students applying at the Regular Deadline.

Students applying for Early Decision to a school, apply with a binding commitment. What a student is saying by applying for Early Decision is, “If you admit me, I will attend your school.”

With such weight on applying Early Decision, it is important to spend significant time researching, and discerning if it is the right school for you.

Because of the binding nature, students are only permitted to apply to one school under Early Decision.

As such, the number of students applying at the Early Decision deadline is significantly less than those applying at other deadlines.

Last year, the University of Pennsylvania admitted 16% of students who applied for Early Decision, while only admitting 4% of students who applied for Regular Decision.

Early Decision presents an excellent opportunity to apply to a reach school that may be out of reach at Regular Decision.

Early Action

Typical Deadline Dates: November 1st, November 15th, December 1st

Similar to Early Decision, the Early Action deadlines tend to be early in the, providing less time to complete applications and prepare materials than Regular Decision.

It is rare for colleges to have both Early Decision and Early Action deadlines, as they tend to coincide with the same dates.

The major difference between Early Action and Early Decision is the level of commitment. Early Action is non-binding. You apply early and ultimately receive a decision earlier.

Because of the non-binding nature of Early Application, students have the opportunity to see their other school decisions come in, review financial aid packages, and then ultimately decide where to enroll.

Suppose your application is competitive but on the edge at the Early Action deadline. In that case, many schools will choose to defer your application to regular decision – That is hold off on deciding until the Regular admissions round.

Restrictive Early Action/Single-Choice Early Action

Some highly selective schools like Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale offer a variation of Early Action. In this version, students may only apply to one school offering Restrictive/Sing-Choice Early Action or Early Decision. The biggest difference between the application types is that Restrictive Early Action/Single-Choice Early Action is non-binding.

Regular Decision

Typical Deadline Dates: January 1st, January 15th

By far the most straightforward and most popular application deadline is Regular Decision.

Regular Decision provides ample time to prepare materials, fine-tune essays, take an additional standardized test, and submit applications, as the deadline does not take place until the beginning of the new year.

Students are allowed to apply to as many schools as they would like at the Regular Decision deadline. As Regular decision is non-binding, there is no commitment upon being accepted, allowing students to weigh their options before deciding on where to enroll.

There are two downsides to applying at the Regular Decision deadline. First, is that the majority of students are applying at the same time, vying for the same spots. Second, because of the later deadline, students often do not hear back from colleges until late March, while some extend through late April.

Rolling Admissions Decision

While not the most typical application type, Rolling Admissions are rather straight forward.

Rolling Admissions are similar to Regular Decision in that they usually have a January 1st deadline. The major difference, however, is that in Rolling admissions, the college reviews and makes decisions as applications come in, rather than waiting until after the deadline.

This is a wonderful opportunity to gain admissions to a college as early as late fall.

Because students are admitted as they apply, it is important to submit your Rolling Admissions application as early as possible in this process, as the review will become more selective over time.

Which Application Deadline is Right for You?

The first thing to consider is what application deadlines are offered at the schools you are interested in applying to.

From there, assess your situation, application and preparedness. Are your essays and supplements finalized? Have you taken a final review of your application and activities?

If you are seeking financial aid, you may wish to stray away from Early Decision as there is no guarantee of any monetary support.

If you feel strongly about a single school and are ready to commit, regardless of the financial aid package, consider applying Early Decision.

If you are not ready to commit to a single school, apply Early Action if you are ready, and Regular Decision if you need a bit more time.

Finally, if you have a Rolling Admission application on your college list, prioritize this application and submit it as early as possible.

There are a variety of situations that may arise throughout this process and no two students are the same. Gather information, consider your options, and make the best decision that you can for your future. Solomon Admissions Consulting is always here to help if you need it. Please feel free to reach out for a free consultation!

All of our blog posts are written by Former College Admission Officers who serve as members of our admission consultant team.

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