Understanding Application Deadlines
Today I am talking about application deadlines and the different options students have regarding when to apply to college. People ask me all the time – when is everything due? The real answer is – it depends. Each type of submission has its own deadlines with pros and cons, so you need to be clear on how and when you want to apply to each one. Understanding deadlines is an important piece of the college admissions puzzle. In general, if you miss a deadline, your application won’t get read, and you will not be accepted to that university. Sad, but true!
What are my Admission Options?
Colleges use this strategy to let students apply anytime they are ready. These colleges will then continue to accept applications for as long as they have spaces available for those students. Rolling admissions, therefore, has the largest window for applications since they have no specified deadline. They go until a given class is full.
Most (but not all) kids applying to colleges with a rolling admission’s policy will want to submit their materials early. This is due to the fact most colleges have a more generous acceptance rate at the start of their rolling admission cycle than they do as that cycle comes to an end (or classes are filled). Early applicants, therefore, have an advantage.
So why wouldn’t everyone want to submit early? This is because some students need the fall, or even the winter, of their senior year to put together their best application.
For example, if you are student whose GPA dropped dramatically junior year, then you should consider holding your applications until you have a semester of senior grades with which to demonstrate your improvement. The risk with this, of course, is that colleges can get overwhelmed with early applicants and actually fill a class before you are ready to submit your application. As with many decisions in this process, you’ll need to balance the pros and cons of your choices.
Early action is often the first time you can apply but not the only time. With this option, you can submit your applications early (mid-October through mid-November) and hear back from the colleges early (mid- December to mid – February). In general, there is no limit to the number of early action deadlines a student can take advantage of. If you are organized, have your teacher recommendations lined up, have completed your standardized testing, and use this to put together a winning application, then I highly recommend taking advantage of the early action process. It can be very helpful to know a few admission decisions before January 1 deadlines hit. This gives you the best chance to refine your list and either add a few more “safety” schools or even add a reach school or two.
Restricted Early Action
Remember when I said you could apply to as many early action schools as you want? Well, that’s true unless they call themselves restricted early action. This is a sneaky way for colleges to lure you into applying early to a limited number of schools without binding yourself to any one decision. In general, the colleges that restrict early action applicants only limit the number of private schools to which a student can apply. The restriction does not apply to public universities; It can be a little confusing. The lesson here is – read the fine print before you submit so that you don’t accidently break any rules.
This is a BIG decision. Do not enter into an early decision contract without really understanding the consequences of your actions. ED is binding! It is a legal contract you, your parents, and your guidance counselor all sign with the college that guarantees you will attend that university if you are admitted. There is no “easy” way to back out of this contract. So why do it? Because in many cases, your chances of getting admitted are doubled. Yes, doubled. That could be a huge advantage. If your dream school has a low acceptance rate and offers early decision, then you should definitely consider it. Your chances are much higher if you “show your cards” and tell the college that you absolutely want to attend their campus. Colleges love kids who love them. They make for a spirited student body and generous alumni. Ok then, shouldn’t everyone apply this way? Definitely not. First, not everyone has a first choice. You might be really excited to go to college in Florida, but you like a couple different schools equally. ED is not the right decision for you. More importantly, though, not everyone can afford to attend that first choice. When you apply ED, you can’t compare financial aid offers from different schools and pick the best one. As I said, early decision is binding. You are legally obligated to attend that school. (Technically you can get out of an ED contract if you truly cannot pay the cost of attendance, but it’s a messy process. A process I do not recommend you consider a back-up plan. Instead, if deciding on an early decision contract be sure you’re ready to commit to that school.
With regular decision, you apply in January and get your decision in March. Regular decisions pools are the largest for colleges so the admit rate is usually the smallest. But applying in January also shows colleges your first semester grades which, in some cases, can be beneficial. As I said in the beginning, there are pros and cons to each admission decision.
Remember competition is fierce out there. You need to be intentional with how, where, and WHEN you apply.