Understanding the 4 Different Types of College Deadlines

Application submission within the deadline is the most important part of the admissions process. You can’t put together an outstanding application, complete with a brilliant personal essay and impressive recommendation letters if you don’t submit it on time. Most colleges will not even look at applications submitted after the deadline. 

There is no doubt that talking about college application deadlines is easier said than done. There are four types of college application deadlines, and it is important to understand what each one means and if it applies to you.

Regular Decision Deadlines

The most common deadline for most applications is this one. College applications for regular decision are typically due around the beginning of January. In March, colleges send acceptance letters. Acceptances are due by the end of April (May 1st is known as College Decision Day).

If you apply through regular decision, there is no limit to the number of schools you can apply to.  When more than one college accepts you, you can choose which one you want to attend. There is no obligation to attend any particular college.

Pros of Regular Decision

  • You have plenty of time to complete your application.
  • It’s up to you how many schools you apply to.
  • It’s time to retake the test.

Cons of Regular Decision

  • As you approach the end of your senior year, you may have a lot on your plate with scholarships, finals, and other responsibilities.
  • There is less time to prepare for college. Therefore, you have less time to choose a school.

Early Decision Deadlines

It is possible for students to apply early due to early decision deadlines. The school reviews these applications early, and students receive a response from the college as well. College applicants who have their hearts set on one particular school can benefit from this option.

The early decision process is not recommended if a college is not first on your list or if you have any hesitations. In the event that you apply through an early decision deadline and a college accepts you, you are not allowed to break your contract. 

You are contractually obligated to attend the college. Backing out of college due to a change of heart can result in a steep fine, which could be as much as a full year’s tuition.

Early decision deadlines usually fall between the 1st and 15th of November.

Pros of Early Decision

  • This shows that you are set on attending that school and it is your top choice. Commitment like this shows dedication.
  • You receive a faster response. Therefore, if you are declined, there will be plenty of time for you to apply to other colleges.
  • Some colleges have higher acceptance rates.

Cons of Early Decision

  • It’s a binding contract that comes with a huge cancellation fee.
  • The deadline for your application has been extended.
  • It is possible to apply to only one college at a time.

Early Action Deadlines

As with early decision deadlines, early action deadlines allow you to submit your college application early, but they are not binding. Under early application, you may apply to multiple colleges. As a result, you should expect an early response from all colleges that you apply to.

The difference between early decision-making and early action is a couple of factors.

The first advantage of early action is that you are not required to attend any particular college. If you have been accepted to multiple colleges, you can choose any one of them.

In addition, you do not need to pay a deposit when submitting your application. Only regular decision applicants must pay the deposit.

Most early action deadlines fall between the 1st and 15th of November, along with early decision deadlines.

Pros of Early Action

  • There is no binding nature to Early Action as opposed to Early Decision.
  • Your request is responded to promptly. This gives you more time to decide which school is right for you.
  • College acceptance rates can be higher at some schools.

Cons of Early Action

  • The deadline for your application has been extended.
  • If you have been accepted, it can be easy to neglect your financial grades.

Rolling Admission Deadlines

The deadline for rolling admissions is the same as the regular decision deadline. The only difference is that colleges that offer rolling admissions don’t send acceptance letters until after the deadline. When they make a decision, they send out letters as soon as they’ve evaluated the applications.

It is always a good idea to apply early to colleges with rolling admissions systems.

Pros of Rolling Admission

  • You have plenty of time to complete your application.
  • Quickly submitting your application lets you know if you are on track.

Cons of Rolling Admission

  • In the event that you turn it in later, your chances of admission could be negatively affected.
  • Some colleges do not offer rolling admission.

How to Know Which One is Right For You

Students will not be able to choose all admission options. Here are some examples of when a college admission choice may be a good idea.

Regular Decision:

If you are not 100% sure where you want to attend just yet, this is a good option. In addition, if you want a few more chances to retake your ACT or SAT, you should choose this option.

Early Decision:

Only choose Early Decision if you are certain you want to attend a particular college. Choosing not to attend can have negative consequences as it is a binding contract. Regular Decision or Early Action are good options if you’re unsure.

Early Action:

Applying through Early Action is a good option if you are pretty sure you want to go to a particular school, but you aren’t 100% sure. Early Action allows you to apply to multiple schools, so if you’re undecided about two schools in particular, this may be a good option for you.

Rolling Admissions:

You may choose this option if you find another school you’d like to apply to after completing your Early Action applications. As an alternative, you can apply early and find out quickly if you were accepted if the college offers rolling admissions.

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