Everything you need to know about Admissions deadlines

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As a high school student, you are all too familiar with deadlines: essay due Jan. 15, lab report due Feb. 2, final project due April 30. These are firm dates when you submit your materials and — phew! —you’re done.

But in the college admissions process, it doesn’t exactly work that way — in admissions, deadlines are more than just due dates. You see, different schools have different deadlines, and many schools offer multiple deadlines. It can get quite confusing. So we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about admissions deadlines, so that you can make smart choices when it comes to applying to colleges. Read on!

What does it mean to apply Early Decision (ED)?
It means that you really, really want to attend that school. In fact, if you apply ED and are accepted, you’re obligated to attend that school. You can’t apply to any other schools ED, although you can apply to others Regular Decision (but if you’re accepted ED, you must withdraw all of those other applications).

ED applications are usually due in November, and admissions decisions follow soon after (usually by December), so you’ll know early in the process where you stand with your first-choice school. You’ll either be accepted (yay!), denied, or deferred, which means your application will be reconsidered later in the admissions cycle. (Don’t worry: You won’t need to resubmit your application.)

What does it mean to apply Early Action (EA)?
Applying EA is a lot like applying ED, but a bit less intense. You see, EA is “nonbinding,” meaning you’re not obligated to attend that school if you get in. And you can apply EA to multiple schools at the top of your list. You apply in the fall and get your decision earlier than if you applied Regular Decision, but you don’t need to give the college your decision until the standard May 1 response date. With EA you get to compare admissions offers and financial aid packages from multiple colleges before making your final decision. It’s a great way to know early and stress less!

What’s the difference between “restrictive” Early Action (EA) and just plain old Early Action?
Some colleges offer a nonbinding application option called “restrictive” or “single-choice” EA. Using this option, you cannot apply EA to any other colleges, whereas using traditional EA, you can. It’s another way to show the school just how interested in it you are. (And remember: when you apply EA either way, you’re not obligated to attend the school if you get in.)

What does it mean to apply to a school Regular Decision?
It means you can apply to as many schools as you wish (and we recommend 6-10) with no pressure to get your applications in early or to attend the school(s) you get into. These applications are usually due around Jan. 1, and decisions are typically released in March or April (check with each school for the specifics); following that, you must decide where you will attend by May 1. If you applied ED or EA and were deferred, you application will likely be considered during this Regular Decision cycle.

Are there benefits to using a school’s application Priority Deadline?
Yes! Many state and/or public schools use their Priority Deadline to encourage early applications. In fact, most schools that offer a Priority Deadline (usually Nov. 1) accept the majority of their students at that time. If a school high on your list offers this option, take it. If you don’t, you may miss out on offers for special programs or scholarships and may be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting in.

When should I send in my application if the school says that it offers Rolling Admission and no deadline?
First, let’s explain Rolling Admission: Schools accept and review applications as they are sent in, as opposed to waiting to review all applications at one time. We recommend you send in your application as soon as possible to these schools. That way, you’ll find out early on if you’re accepted, and then you can adjust your plan accordingly. If you get in — and it’s the right school for you — congrats, you’re all set! If you don’t get in, there should be plenty of time to apply to the other schools on your list.

Additional Resources
Take advantage of all that we have to offer! With MyCoalition, you can build your college list, explore our diverse group of colleges and universities and learn their admissions deadlines, and even apply to these schools with one easy application.

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