4 College Application Deadlines You Should Know About
Last updated September 28, 2023
With most college applications (like the Common App) open on August 1st, you’re probably wondering, “When is the best time to submit my college application?” Most schools list a final application deadline on their website, but there are also four types of application deadlines to be aware of: early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling admission. Depending on the schools you are applying to and your situation, one option may work better for you than the other. It’s important to understand what these deadlines mean so you know exactly when your application is due!
Early Decision and Early Action
Under early decision (ED) and early action (EA), you can apply to a college by an earlier deadline, usually in November of your senior year in high school, and receive a decision on your application before regular decision applicants, sometime in December or January. If applying under ED/EA, you may have a higher chance of getting accepted when you match or exceed the college’s acceptance requirements. Receiving an early acceptance can also give you more time to focus preparing for college, like receiving your financial aid package sooner and finishing your senior year.
Early Decision (ED)
If you are absolutely sure where you want to go to college, match or exceed the college's requirements, and are confident that you have (or can get) the financial support you need to afford the cost of attendance, applying through early decision may be right for you. It’s important to note, unlike the other deadline options, ED is binding. Under early decision applications:
- Apply to only one school through an early decision application.
- All other college applications must be regular admissions.
- Applications are binding so you agree to attend that school if accepted, unless the financial aid award is insufficient.
- If accepted, you must withdraw all other college applications.
- Usually, the non-refundable enrollment deposit must be sent well in advance of May 1st.
Early Action (EA)
Applying through early action is an alternative to early decision, if you want to hear back from your top college(s) sooner, but still want to wait for acceptances from other colleges you applied to. Under early admission applications:
- Your application can be accepted, denied, or in some cases deferred - meaning your application is pushed to the regular decision applications.
- Other college applications can be regular admissions or early action (a few schools have restrictive or single choice EA plans so make sure to do your research).
- Applications are non-binding so you can consider other acceptance offers or decline the school’s admissions offer for any reason.
- You can wait to hear from other colleges you applied to and compare your financial aid packages
The Limitations of Early Decision and Early Action
While ED/EA have their benefits, make sure you consider the limitations of applying under these programs:
- Under ED/EA, your college application timeline will be pushed earlier, typically by a few months. For example, if you are taking the SAT/ACT, you will need to register for an earlier test date (by October) for test scores to be submitted on time. You will also need to have your personal essays, course grades, recommendation letters, and other application materials ready to submit before the early deadline.
- You typically have to commit to one college if applying under ED or single-choice/restrictive EA, which can feel like a lot of pressure to make the right choice of school. Make sure you talk to a trusted educator or adult to go over all your options before deciding to apply under ED or single-choice/restrictive EA.
- Your financial aid opportunities may be limited. With ED applications you won’t be able to compare other financial aid packages from other schools you’ve applied to.
A majority of students apply to college under regular decision deadlines, which is usually in January or February of your senior year in high school. Colleges will then send their notifications in March or April, from which you’ll have to respond by May 1st.
Regular decision has the widest application window, which gives you more time to gather your college application materials - including your personal statement essays, recommendation letters, and SAT/ACT scores. This time also allows you to make your college application as strong as possible while balancing other responsibilities like senior year, work, and other extracurriculars.
Some colleges offer rolling admissions - meaning there is a large window of time to apply, usually lasting through spring or until all the spots have been filled. Different schools will have different time frames of when you can submit your application, especially if you want to start school at a specific time or be considered for institutional scholarships. Schools review applications as they are submitted meaning you’ll usually hear back within four to eight weeks. Colleges with rolling admissions are great options for students who might want to delay their college start time by a quarter or semester and focus on work or family.
After You Submit Your Application
No matter where or when you submit your college applications, be sure to check your email and mailbox regularly since the majority of colleges will send their decisions in one of these ways. They may also reach out if your application is incomplete or even request additional information, such as a letter of recommendation or a resume, to get to know you better as they are reviewing your application. If you receive any requests like this it’s important to respond ASAP. We recommend checking both your mail and email once a day to ensure you don't miss anything important from the schools you applied to.
Applying for colleges and juggling deadlines can be stressful and confusing, but we’re here to help! For more questions about college applications, text #College to 33-55-77 (click here to have the text message set up for you) or hit us up on Instagram @getschooled!