College application season is upon us, and learners are hard at work filling out applications. Each college will have its own decision dates and rules. Here is an overview of the different types of applications.
Early Deadlines: Learners apply early and receive an early admission and financial aid response. Early option deadlines are often in November and December. There may be more than one early option:
- Early Decision (ED) is a binding decision and cannot be broken. The parents, learner, and the high school counselor will sign a contract stating that if the learner is accepted, they will withdraw all other college applications and commit to the college. You should only use this option if you know you can afford and are willing to attend this college. Students can only apply to one college using early decision.
- Early Action (EA) is a non-binding decision. While the college’s admission and financial aid offers come early, an admitted student has until May 1 to make a decision. A student can apply to as many early-action colleges as they wish. EA can be advantageous because it shows learner interest and could result in special scholarships. Important note: Early decision overrides early action admission offers.
- Restricted Early-Action (REA) or Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) is a non-binding decision; however, often the college adds restrictions. Most often a learner who applies under REA/SCEA may not apply using early decision to any college and may also not be allowed to apply early action. REA/SCEA does not restrict regular decision applications. Only a handful of very selective colleges use REA/SCEA.
Regular Decision (RD): Most colleges have a regular-decision deadline in January or early February. The deadline allows students to take the time they need to complete a strong application and apply to numerous colleges. All colleges must provide an admission response by April 1, and the student has until May 1 to accept an offer and submit a deposit.
Surprise Deadlines: Students who are applying to majors such as music, dance, theater, film, business, or other programs may have an earlier deadline. This is especially true for majors that require auditions, creative supplements, or an extended interview process. Some colleges may also require an earlier application if the student would like to be considered for scholarships. Check the website of each college for financial aid deadlines.
Rolling Decisions: Many colleges have a rolling application process. This allows the student to apply anytime in the fall and receive an admission and financial aid offer quickly, sometimes as early as two weeks. Some colleges with rolling decisions do not stop taking applications until they are full and applications may continue to be accepted into the spring. Other colleges may have a final application deadline.
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