Application Deadlines – What’s the Difference?

One of the first things we explain to our students at the beginning of the application process is the difference between the types of deadlines. Let’s take a moment to sort those out.

Keeping track of college application deadlines can be a nightmare! Especially when you realize each college has multiple types of deadlines with different dates for each. To add to it, the deadlines likely won’t be the same for every college you’re applying to. It can be really overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! 

One of the first things we explain to our students at the beginning of the application process is the difference between the types of deadlines. Let’s take a moment to sort those out.

Early Action: This deadline is an option for students who are ready to submit a strong application and test scores early in the application season. Some benefits of submitting Early Action include receiving a decision from the college sooner than students who apply later, showing the school you’re interested enough to prepare your application early, and having less time to procrastinate and worry about completing your application. It’s important to keep in mind that applying Early Action also means your application will be viewed among other strong applicants. If you’re able to prepare a solid application by this deadline, Early Action is a great option for you! If not, it may be worth it to take more time to polish your application as much as possible before hitting submit. 

Early Decision / Restrictive Early Action: Students often confuse this with Early Action, but there is an extremely important difference between the two. Applying Early Decision means that if you’re accepted by that college, you are obligated to go there. Period. It’s a binding agreement regardless of how much it costs or if you change your mind. The benefit to applying Early Decision (mostly at highly selective colleges like Harvard or Yale) is that it may increase your chance of acceptance. However, we rarely recommend to students unless it’s your absolute dream school and finances are not a decision factor for you.

Regular Decision: This deadline is typically at least a few months later than Early Action or Early Decision. It is the general deadline that you must get your application and test scores in by to be considered for admission. 

Rolling Admission: Some colleges may have this as an option, meaning there is no set application deadline. This does not mean you should apply last minute though! Schools with Rolling Admission will accept applications until they are full, but your chances of receiving more financial aid or first choice housing may significantly decrease the longer you wait. 

Understanding these different deadlines will help you know which dates to keep track of based on which best fits you and your application. Applying for college can be tricky, but College Dream Builder is here to help coach you through this process personally, making it even easier for you to navigate deadlines, applications, and all of the questions and decisions that may come!

Happy Applying!

Megan Bugarin, College Dream Builder Consultant

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