Understanding the 4 Different Types of College Deadlines

There are four types of college application deadlines

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The four different types of college deadlines are: regular decision, early decision, early action, and rolling admissions. But, of course, they’re quite different from each other.

Submitting your application within the deadline is the single most important part of the admissions process. Taking the time to put together an outstanding application, complete with a brilliant personal essay and impressive recommendation letters is futile if you do not send in your application on time. Very few colleges if any will even bother to look at any applications that come in after the deadlines. Talking about college application deadlines is easier said than done, however. Most colleges have four different types of college application deadlines and it is important to understand what each one means and whether or not it applies to you.

Regular Decision Deadlines

This is the most common type of deadline that applies to most applications. Regular decision deadlines are typically around the beginning of January. Colleges send the acceptance letters sometime in March. You have until the end of April to accept (May 1st is known as College Decision Day).

When applying through regular decision there is no limit to the number of schools you can apply to.  If more than one college accepts you, you can choose which one you want to go to. You are under no obligation to enroll in any one particular college.

Early Decision Deadlines

Early decision deadlines allow students to apply early. The school reviews these applications early and students also receive an early response from the college. This is a great option for applicants who have their heart set on one particular college.

However, if a college is not first on your list or if you have any hesitation whatsoever, it is not advisable to apply as an early decision. When you apply through an early decision deadline and a college accepts you, you cannot break your contract. The college contractually obligates you to attend. If you decide to back out because you’ve changed your mind, most colleges will charge you a steep fine, which could be as much as a full year’s tuition.

The deadlines for early decision are usually somewhere between the 1st and 15th of November.

Early Action Deadlines

Early action deadlines also allow you to apply early but unlike early decision deadlines, it is not binding. You may apply to multiple colleges under early application decision. Thus, expect an early response from all colleges that you apply to.

There are a couple of differences between early decision and early action.

Firstly, with early action you are not obliged to attend any one particular college. You can apply to multiple colleges and choose any one from among those that have accepted you.

Secondly, you do not have to pay any deposit while sending in your application. You only pay the deposit at the same time as the regular decision applicants.

Early action deadlines are usually set at the same time as early decision deadlines, which is generally between the 1st and 15th of November.

Rolling Admission Deadlines

With rolling admissions, the deadline is the same as the regular decision deadline. The only difference is that colleges that offer rolling admissions do not wait till after the deadline to send out acceptance letters. They start evaluating the applications as they come in and send out letters as soon as they’ve made a decision.

When applying to a college that has a rolling admissions system, it is always a good idea to apply as early as possible.

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