College admissions season is a highly competitive and often stressful process for students and parents alike. One key aspect of this process is understanding and meeting the deadlines set by each institution to which you are applying. To help you navigate this process, this post provides an overview of the 4 main types of college admissions deadlines: Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, and Rolling Admissions.
Early Decision (ED)
ED is a binding agreement between a student and a college. This means that if a student is accepted through early decision, they must attend the college and withdraw all other applications. Students should only apply ED if they are 100% sure that is the school of their dreams, regardless of the financial aid package they receive. ED applications are generally due on November 1st or 15th and receive your admissions around mid-December.
Some universities even offer ED II which is also binding, but with a later deadline, usually due around early January. Applying ED II allows students extra time to get their material together such as perfecting their essays or retaking standardized tests. ED II applicants will generally hear their admissions decision around mid-February.
Regardless, any student accepted through the ED deadline must quickly accept their offers and send deposits soon after.
Early Action (EA)
EA is a non-binding agreement between a student and a college. This means that if a student is accepted through early action, they do not have to attend the college and can continue applying to other institutions. EA deadlines vary per school but are typically November 1st, 15th, December 1st or 15th and decisions are usually released in mid-December to January. Unlike ED, students accepted under the EA deadline have until the usual May 1st deadline to decide on the college they want to attend.
Additionally, there is a similar deadline called Restrictive Early Action (REA) with the same deadlines and notification timeline. The difference is, REA is only offered at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Applicants are restricted from applying ED anywhere else. Each school may have its own unique restrictions, so it is important to check if it is the right deadline for you. For example, Harvard does not allow REA applicants to apply to EA to any other colleges, except for public and international colleges.
Regular Decision (RD)
RD is the most common type of admissions deadline and the one with the largest applicant pool. RD deadlines vary by institution, although most are due by mid-January. Students who apply under the RD deadline will receive their decision in the spring (Early April). Important to note that some schools such as the University of California (Due: Nov 20th) school system and the University of Florida (Due: Nov 1st) have much earlier deadlines.
Rolling Admissions (RA)
RA is the most flexible option for students as colleges review applications as they are received and notify applicants of their decision on a rolling basis. This means that students may receive a decision anywhere from a few weeks to several months after submitting their application. Rolling admissions typically have no set deadline and remain open until the incoming class is full. Students are encouraged to apply early for the best chances of being admitted, and the best consideration for financial aid. Each college will have its own deadline, and requirements, so check their website out to get confirmation of their timeline.
It is important to choose what deadline you want to apply under, so once the college application portals open on August 1st, you can get started. When choosing a deadline to apply under, it's also important to check deadlines for any additional material they may require such as standardized test scores, financial aid documents, scholarship applications, transcripts, and recommendation letters. Make sure to research and familiarize yourself with the deadlines of each institution you are applying to, so you can submit your application on time and increase your chances of being admitted. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance from a professional admissions consultant. Good luck!