When it comes to applying to college you may have noticed different types of deadlines. Some may have suggested early action, early decision, or even rolling admissions, but what does it mean? Understanding the key differences between each term will help you determine when you should submit your college application.
This option allows you to submit your application earlier than the normal required deadline—usually in November—which in return gives you an early admission decision. Early decisions are binding plans which means you agree to enroll into the institution if admitted and offered a financial package that meets your needs. This decision is ideal for students who have done extensive research on the college and are sure such school matches their academic, social, and geographical needs. It also cuts down on the expenses related to applying to other colleges and the stress of waiting for a decision. The major drawback to this decision is the pressure of committing to one college. So again, if you are considering an early decision, please be sure you have done much research and have no doubts about the school you are seeking admissions.
Like the early decision, early action deadlines allow you to apply before the regular deadline as well. The key difference here is that this decision is non-binding which means you are not required to enroll into the institution if admitted. So, a student in this instance would apply, typically in November, and receive a decision by the end of January—no later than February. This option allows you to consider the acceptance offer while continuing to apply to other colleges you are interested in. If you haven’t taken the SAT/ACT or need a strong senior fall semester to bring your grades up, this decision is most likely not for you.
Regular Action (or Regular Decision)
This decision is an extension of the early action/early decision deadline. Colleges typically will set the application deadline around December, return a decision by February, and ask candidates to reply by May. This option serves well for students who are taking the SAT’s in November and need time to complete required essays. Additionally, this deadline gives students more time to research colleges to determine what best suites them. I would warn that most colleges pull the vast majority of their first-year students from the early action and early decision pool. This is not to say that you would not be considered or accepted at all, rather it is something that needs to be considered when applying to the college of your choice.
Under this decision, schools generally accept and review applications on an ongoing basis until their class fills up. Instead of releasing all decisions at once, they make and release admissions decisions throughout the application season. Though, under this decision you receive a response back quickly, it is best for you to apply early. This is because rolling admissions schools continue to admit students if they have space. If you wait too long to apply, there may no longer be space available.
In conclusion, only you can determine when is the best deadline for you to apply to the college you are interested in. Keep in mind your application is not considered complete until you’ve submitted all of the supplemental material required!