Application Deadlines (EA, ED, RD, etc)
I just made decisions about which colleges I’m applying to;
now I need to make decisions about decision plans?
– High School Junior
There are so many early options to keep straight and choose from,
I think the whole thing should be called "early confusion."
– Parent of High School Junior
What is a Decision Plan (also known as "Admission Plan")?
Colleges offer application deadline choices called Decision Plans (also known as "Admission Plans"). These choices are provided by each college to accommodate an applicant's readiness for application completion (i.e., all required components are ready and submitted by the deadline). At times it can convey an applicant's level of commitment to the college.
College decision plans fall into three major categories:
- Regular Decision (RD)
- Rolling Admission (RA)
- Early admission options, which offer additional variations:
- Early Decision (ED)
- Early Action (EA)
- Restrictive Early Action (REA), also known as Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA)
What is Regular Decision (RD) and what are its advantages?
The vast majority of students apply Regular Decision (RD). If there is not a compelling reason for you to apply under another option, RD is the decision plan you will probably use. Typically, the deadline for RD applications is some time in January, although for many public universities this can fall earlier or later (e.g., University of California deadline is November 30, and University of Texas deadline is Dec. 1st.) Notifications are usually around April 1. Accepted students must respond by May 1st.
Advantages of Regular Decision include:
- Unrestricted choice.
- Time to decide where you want to apply.
- Time to compose a well-considered application.
- Ability to submit your 1st semester senior year grades for consideration.
- Ability to take more standardized tests in Nov or Dec of your senior year.
- Financial aid and scholarship awards are available to help you make your decisions.
What is Rolling Admission (RA)?
Most colleges that offer Rolling Admission (RA) don't offer other ways to apply, so you are not necessarily choosing a rolling plan when you apply. Applications are accepted within a large time frame that may begin as early as August, until all positions are filled. You are notified soon after your application is received. Your response is usually not required until May 1st. These colleges believe they can assess each student individually rather than compare each student to the rest of the application pool. Since positions do fill up, and in some schools financial aid, merit scholarships, housing choices may start to run low, it is advised that you apply earlier rather than later. If you apply earlier, your junior year record should be strong and your testing should be complete by October of your senior year.
What are Early admission options?
About 450 colleges offer Early admission options, which are either Early Action (EA) or Early Decision (ED) plans (or a college may offer both). These plans are usually due in November, and notification of acceptance, denial or deferral is received by mid-December. Deferral means your application will be reconsidered with the Regular Decision pool.
If you choose to apply early, it is advised that you do not delay in continuing the application process for your Regular Decision list. If you are denied or deferred, you have approximately two weeks after notification in mid-December before most Regular Decision deadlines - in the midst of holiday festivities.
Continue reading FAQ answers below for more information.
What are the differences between Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA), Restrictive Early Action (REA) and Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA)?Early Action is like asking someone to prom. Early Decision is like asking someone to marry you.
- Duke University Admissions Counselor
Early Decision is Binding
Early Decision (ED) plans are binding, which means you commit to enroll in that school if you are admitted. You are allowed to apply for an early decision to only one college. If you are accepted you will receive a financial aid package offer at around the same time, you must withdraw all applications already submitted and you may not apply elsewhere.
Because an ED acceptance is a binding commitment, this choice must be very carefully considered. Involving your parents early in this decision process is critical as your family will not be able to compare financial aid packages or merit scholarship offers between colleges. If financial aid is an absolute need, it may not be a good idea for you to apply Early Decision.
Some schools offer two rounds of Early Decision (ED 1 and 2), where the ED 2 deadline is just before or coincides with the Regular Decision deadline.
Early Action is Non-Binding
Early Action (EA) is the most flexible way to apply early. Almost all early action policies allow applicants to apply to multiple schools for early or regular admission decisions. You will receive notification of acceptance, denial or deferral usually by mid-December. If you are accepted, you are not committed to enroll and you have until May 1st to decide. This gives your family the ability to compare financial aid packages between colleges to which you are accepted.
Restrictive or Single-Choice Early Action
A few highly selective schools employ "restrictive" or "single choice" early action policies (REA or SCEA). With these programs, you are restricted from applying early decision or early action to other private universities. Note, however, that there is no restriction regarding applying early to public or foreign institutions, as long as the application is non-binding. You may also be permitted to apply via Early Decision 2 to another private university as long as the the notification is after January 1st, but if you are accepted, you must withdraw your Early Action application. Make sure you check each school's restrictions carefully and abide by those policies.
Does applying early increase my chance for acceptance?
It depends. The advantages to applying early will vary from school to school and from one applicant to another.
There may be an advantage at colleges which put a lot of emphasis on the Early Decision program.
At some colleges, the early plan may be the least competitive part of the admission calendar. At other colleges, it could be the most competitive. While it’s true that the applicant pool is smaller, students who apply early tend to have very strong profiles by the end of their junior year or belong to special circumstance groups that are priorities to the college, thus skewing the early admissions rate to seem less competitive.
It could be argued that an Early Decision 2 plan presents some advantage as your application is often read before Regular Decision applications. If you are denied by your first choice school, applying ED 2 to your second choice school demonstrates commitment to an admissions committee, setting you apart from Regular Decision candidates. Tread carefully as you should never put yourself in a situation where you feel pressure to attend a college simply because you gained admission.
Does applying early increase my chances for merit or need-based financial aid?
While some colleges enjoy generous endowments, others do not. Submitting your application early could increase your chances of receiving merit or need-based financial aid. Contact the college's Financial Aid Office to learn more.
Is applying early right for me?
Applying Early Action or Early Decision should be a consideration only if:
- You have researched a number of colleges extensively.
- If possible you have visited the colleges or have first hand knowledge of the specific opportunities that would enhance your education.
- Because of your research you have zeroed in on one or two favorites.
- You meet or exceed the admission profile for curriculum strength, GPA and class rank by the end of your junior year.
- You have completed all testing requirements by October of your senior year.
- You have spent a considerable amount of time composing a compelling personal statement (possibly starting the summer before senior year) and have solicited the opinions of one or two trusted adults regarding the essays.
- Your requests for teacher and counselor recommendations were submitted at least one month prior to your early deadline.
- You are not applying early because all your friends are applying early.
Is Early Decision right for me?
In addition to the points in the previous FAQ:
- You have been absolutely sure for a long period of time (not just a couple of days) that this college is your first choice.
- You would attend this college even if you were accepted to others on your application list.
- You and your parents agree that if you are offered a reasonable financial aid package, you would attend this college even if other colleges offer you a better package or merit scholarship.
- You have visited the college, observed classes, and if possible, had an overnight stay.
- You are a person who has convictions about what is important to you and you do not have a tendency to change your mind impulsively.
Early Admission: November 1 Regular Admission January 1
Note: Application deadlines can vary greatly.
Here are a few examples of colleges that do not have typical deadlines:
|College||Early Action||Regular Decision|
|CU Boulder||Nov 15||Jan 15|
|Colorado State University||Dec 1||Feb 1 - May 1|
|Univ. of Northern Colorado (UNC)||N/A||Rolling: Mar 1 - Aug 1|
|University of California (UC)||N/A||Nov 30|
|California State University||N/A||Nov 30|
|University of Texas (UT)||N/A||Dec 1|