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Early, Rolling, and Regular: Understanding Application Options

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College Application Deadlines: What is Early Action and Rolling Admission?

Once you’ve decided which colleges you want to apply to, you need to manage the most important part of the admissions process – submitting your application by the school’s admissions deadline. If you don’t meet the deadline, the hard work you’ve put into filling out your college applications, crafting your essays, and collecting your supportive letters of recommendation will be unavailing. Most colleges will not consider applications submitted past the deadline they’ve set. 

College application deadlines are rather nuanced and some schools have their own unique variations. We’ve put together this college application deadline cheatsheet as a tool for you to reference during your admissions process. 

There are four main types of college application deadlines that the majority of colleges have, each with its own set of expectations and guidelines. We will dive into these main application deadlines to share key information about each so you can determine which is best for you.

Early, Rolling, and Regular: When Should You Apply?

Regular Admissions 

First up is the most frequently chosen application deadline. You can expect regular decision deadlines to land somewhere around the beginning of January. You can expect an admissions decision in the spring, usually mid-March, with the hope that you will accept their offer by May 1st. 

With regular decision applications, there is no cap to the number of schools you can apply to. If you are accepted to more than one school, you can select which school you would like to attend with no obligation to attend any of the schools to which you applied. 

Rolling Admissions

Rolling admissions is similar to regular admissions with one defining difference. College admissions teams review applications on-going as they come in instead of collecting applications and reviewing them at the same time after a set deadline. Once an application has been reviewed and evaluated, admissions teams send out their decisions. Schools will continue to review applications until all of their available slots are filled for the upcoming terms. 

It is important to apply as early as possible to schools with rolling admissions if they are high on your list of schools. Otherwise, you risk submitting your application to a school you would like to attend after all of their available spots for the upcoming year are filled.

Early Decision Admissions – Binding

If you know for certain that a school is the absolute best overall fit for you, you can show your interest and commitment to a school through Early Decision. These deadlines fall earlier than regular admissions with deadlines usually landing in October or November to start in the fall the following year. One benefit to applying early is getting the school’s decision early – you will hear from the school earlier, with early decision notifications typically sent in December. 

There’s a catch with early decision that is very crucial though. Early decision applications are binding. That means if you are offered admission, you must attend that school and remove any other applications you have submitted to other schools. Since early decision is binding, you can only apply early decision to one school. You can still submit regular or rolling applications for additional schools as back-ups, as long as they are not binding. 

This is an excellent opportunity for applicants that are completely confident in their choice to attend a specific school. If you are unsure to any extent, it is advisable to steer clear of early decision applications. You must sign a contract as part of your early decision application that cannot be broken if you are accepted.

Early Action Admissions – Non-Binding

Early action is a good opportunity to submit your applications to a few schools you are very serious about early in the process to get yourself in front of admissions committees early in the process. Although early action deadlines often times are the same as those for early decision, this is an option to get your application submitted early without the same level of commitment as early decision. This is a non-binding option so you have the opportunity to decide after your acceptance if you will attend the school or opt for a different choice. 

Schools prioritize early decision applications so early action applicants can expect to hear from schools just a bit later. Instead of the December timeframe, early action admission decisions are typically sent in January/February. 

woman reading college acceptance letterAs you can see, there are several different avenues for college application deadlines. Luckily, our team at Service to School is well versed in the application options and can help you identify the best opportunities for your goals. Sign-up and receive hands-on assistance with your college application.



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• Amanda Dobias

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