As you’ve been researching different universities and their application deadlines, you may have encountered some unfamiliar terminology. What is Early Action? What is Early Decision? What about Rolling Admission? Read on to learn more about what each of these means and how they may impact your college applications:
(Single Choice/Restricted) Early Action (EA)
Applying Early can be a strategic move that makes sense for some, though not all, students. Universities that accept Early Action applications offer one EA deadline typically between October 15 - November 15, and students who are admitted to an EA school have until May 1 to decide whether they would like to accept their spot. This means a student can apply to an EA school and still apply to other universities in the Regular Decision round. That said, if you applied to an EA school and you know you plan to attend, you can accept your spot immediately without waiting until May or applying to other universities.
Some schools don’t have restrictions on how many EA universities you apply to, while others have Single Choice or Restricted Early Action deadlines. For these schools, you are asked to only apply to one school EA. (Check out Eli’s blog on why schools offer REA/SCEA over EA).
Early Decision (ED)
Applying to an Early Decision university is a big decision that should be made with careful consideration. Similar to Early Action, students submit their applications by an earlier deadline — oftentimes November 1 — and receive their admission decisions by mid-December. However, distinctly different from Early Action, Early Decision is a binding contract — meaning, if a student applies ED and is admitted, they are contractually obligated to enroll at that university and to withdraw all other applications they may have submitted to universities. The only exceptions to this are: 1) if you applied for financial aid and the university is not able to meet your full demonstrated need, you are released from this contract; and 2) (less common) if you have an extenuating family circumstance that keeps you from being able to enroll at the university, you may be released on a case-by-case basis from this commitment.
Early Decision II (ED II)
To confuse things a little more, a handful of universities offer a second ED deadline, which usually coincides with each university’s Regular Decision deadline (more on that below). The most significant difference between ED and ED II is timing: ED applications are due in early November, while ED II applications are due in early January. Decisions for ED II are also released on an earlier timeline, typically by mid-February.
Keep in mind that you cannot apply to the same school for both Early rounds, and you cannot apply as a Regular Decision applicant to a school that denied your application in ED or ED II. However, you can apply to one school ED II and simultaneously apply to as many universities as you’d like Regular Decision. If admitted to your ED II school, you’ll need to immediately withdraw all other Regular Decision applications.
The vast majority of applications are typically submitted by a school’s Regular Decision deadline. Each university will have one Regular Decision deadline, and most of those occur between January 1-15. Students are permitted to apply to as many schools as they like by the Regular Decision deadline, even if they were given admission to their Early Action school (but not if they were admitted in Early Decision elsewhere). Decisions are usually released in late March or early April, and if you are admitted, you have until May 1 to submit an official deposit and commitment to attend one of those universities.
A few universities offer applicants an opportunity to submit their application during a larger window of time. These universities don’t designate an official application deadline. Instead, they close the application once all of the available spots in the incoming class have been filled. These universities typically review applications faster and release admission decisions as they become available — that is, on a rolling basis.
Although there isn’t always a set deadline for rolling admission schools, we still encourage you to submit your application sooner rather than later for two reasons: 1) you ensure that your application is given full consideration before the whole class is admitted, and 2) you may have access to more financial aid opportunities from universities that have a limited pool to distribute to admitted students who have demonstrated need.
It’s up to you to research the schools on your list and stay organized to meet the deadlines. For an easy-to-digest visual of these different application policies, see the infographic below: