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4 College Application Deadlines You Should Know About

Last updated November 1, 2022

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?”. Deadlines vary, but a majority of colleges offer four options to submit your application: early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling admission - and depending on your situation, one option may work better for you than the other. It’s important to understand what these deadlines mean so you are best prepared when filling out your college application!

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 finding housing and receiving your financial aid package sooner.

Early decision

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. However, unlike the other deadline options, ED is binding - meaning you have to apply to one college, and if you are accepted, you must commit to attending that college and withdraw all other college applications.

Early action

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 EA, your application can be accepted, denied, or in some cases deferred - meaning your application is pushed to the regular decision applications and you will be evaluated again in February or March. In addition - unlike ED, EA is non-binding, which means if you are accepted you don’t have to respond until college decision day, May 1st. EA can also give you enough time to wait for decisions from other colleges you applied to, and compare your financial aid packages between them. While you can typically apply to multiple schools through EA, a few schools (specifically Ivy League) may have restrictive or single choice plans, which means you can’t apply EA anywhere else (but you can still apply under regular decision to other colleges!).

The limitations of early decision/early action

While ED/EA has its 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, you will need to take the SAT/ACT earlier (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 (especially if applying under ED), which can put a lot of pressure on you to make a decision on which college to apply to, before exploring all your options. Make sure you talk to a trusted educator or adult to go over all your options before deciding to apply under ED/EA.
  • Your financial aid opportunities may be limited. With ED and single-choice/restrictive EA plans, you won’t be able to compare other financial aid packages with other schools you’ve applied to.

Regular decision

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 essays, recommendation letters, and SAT/ACT scores. This time also allows you to make your college application as strong as possible against other applicants.

Rolling admission

Some colleges offer rolling admissions - meaning there is no deadline to apply. Different schools will have different time frames of when you can submit your application, and how long it will take to hear back from them. 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 

No matter where or when you submit your applications, be sure to check your email and mailbox regularly, since the majority of colleges will send their decisions in either 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 with the material you’re being asked for. 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 #Hello to 33-55-77 or hit us up on Instagram @getschooled! 

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