Each college sets its own application deadline, and the deadline can be different depending on the type of decision a student request. There are four main types: early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling decision.
Early Decision is an option for students who have a clear sense of their first-choice school and are ready to apply to a college or university early in the fall application cycle. A benefit of early decision is that students will find out much earlier whether they have been accepted. For this type of admission, schools typically open the application as early as mid-October, and students find out if they have been accepted in mid-December. However, applying early decision should only be done if the individual has done extensive research on the school and is certain they can afford the tuition if they are accepted, because early decision is binding. Students accepted through early decision usually must withdraw their applications from all other schools.
Early Action is a different option for individuals who have done extensive research on the college or university they are looking to apply to. Unlike early decision, early action is not binding, and a student is still able to apply to other schools and make a final decision by the traditional May 1st deadline; still, they’ll receive the decision earlier in the application cycle.
Regular Decision is a beneficial option for students who want to wait and hear from all the colleges they applied to before deciding. This might also be a good option if a student is weighing multiple financial aid awards.
Rolling Decision is open until all the slots are filled. This option is helpful for students who take admission exams late or want to wait to apply; however, the student runs the risk that all admission spots will be taken
Still worried about college admissions? Check out my guide on choosing the right college.
Professor Cheryl Carter is a professor, freelance writer, and prolific author.