College Application Deadline Debrief
High school students on the home stretch of the college application process not only need to finalize where they will apply but when. Application deadlines vary between colleges, plus many colleges offer more than one deadline option with different dates and stipulations.
College Transitions has created a searchable list of deadlines by college. But the best way to be sure of a college's deadline is to look it up. When you do, you may see several options that vary by college.
There are seven main types of admission deadlines and while the names may be similar the differences are significant. Here are the most salient points for each type:
Early Decision (ED)*
Binding, which means the student agrees to attend the college if it accepts them and offers adequate financial aid
Can apply ED to only one college
Apps are due in November, notification is usually in December
If accepted via ED, the student must withdraw all other applications
If not admitted via ED, the student may be “deferred to the Regular Decision deadline
Potential drawback - due to the early notification, the student may not be able to compare financial aid award packages from other college admissions
Choose this option if you have found your best fit school, are a strong candidate for admission and can afford tuition
Early Decision II (ED II)*
Early Decision II is a second round of ED of binding admissions
Similar to regular Early Decision, but with a later deadline
The typical deadline is January 1 or January 15.
* The acceptance rate for Early Decision admissions (both ED I and ED II) is usually higher than it is for Regular Decision, though specific rate differences vary from school to school. The higher acceptance rate is the primary benefit of this type of application. But, these rates should be viewed with a grain of salt, as early applicant "spots" may be reserved for recruited athletes, legacy applicants or special low-income scholarship applicants. Read this interesting perspective on Brown's ED admissions process.
Restricted Early Action/Single-choice Early Action
Restrictive Early Action (REA) -- non-binding, but does not allow the applicant to apply to any other schools that are ED
Typically the institutions that use REA are the most selective ones such as Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard
Such schools may allow the applicant to simultaneously apply to a public university with a non-binding early application deadline or to other colleges via RD (check for confirmation)
Non-binding - can submit early and still have time to decide
Usually, submit in early November and receive notification by December
Can compare financial aid offers from all schools
Default application deadline
Most submission deadlines fall between the end of December and early February
Non-binding and available at most institutions
Decisions by March or April and will be required to respond (accept or decline) by May/June
Priority Admissions/Priority Deadline
Similar to RD, but usually with an earlier deadline
After the deadline has passed, applications are accepted on a case-by-case basis
Can apply at any time up until a certain date (for example, until July 1).
Under rolling admission, the application remains open and students are admitted as long as space is available
Non-binding, but you’ll want to get your application in sooner rather than later, because once the college or program fills up, no more applications will be accepted
Many schools actually recommend that you send in your application around the same time as a regular decision application, just to be sure there is space
Main Reasons for Applying Early:
An improved chance of being accepted
An improved chance of receiving merit aid
First choice for housing
More time to prepare for college and study for high school classes/AP tests, if accepted
More time to apply to other colleges with later deadlines if you get rejected
Peace of mind
Caveat: Students should only apply early if their application is “done.” A rushed application will not receive an advantage in the admissions process if it does not present the student’s best profile.
Advantage of Early Action over Early Decision
The opportunity it gives the student to apply to — and ultimately compare financial aid packages from — several schools. If a student is accepted Early Decision, they risk missing the admission deadlines of other schools while they wait for your award package to arrive. If that award is lackluster, you have fewer options.
Understanding the nuances in the different deadline options can help students design their application outline timeline and provide structure to their application process. Having a plan is the best way to beat application stress.
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