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Early Action? Early Decision? Regular Admission? Oh My!

There is a little vocabulary to go with filling out your college applications: Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Admissions, and Rolling Admissions. These are like “time zones” of when you should apply to certain colleges. Each “zone” means something a little different. Beth has broken it down a little for you! 

Early Action

Early Action (EA) means the college will review and decide to accept you early (before their Regular Admissions). 

The EA deadline for most colleges is typically before November 15. Check the official date for your specific college on the college website.If accepted, you will receive a letter of acceptance, denial or they may choose to put you in a pile for regular decision. This letter typically arrives in December. 

Applying through EA does not mean you are required to commit to that college when you receive the acceptance.  Being accepted EA does mean you can rest assured that you have at least one (or more) colleges to choose from for your final decision (which is usually May 1).. 

Early Decision

Early Decision (ED) means you want to make an early decision (before May) and does require you to make a decision and commit to that college. If you decide to accept a school ED, you should withdraw your applications from the other colleges on your list.  

The ED deadline for most colleges is also before November 15. Again, check the date for your specific college on the college website. 

You apply through ED to the school that is top on your list and that you want to go to if you are accepted. Again, the school can choose to accept your application as ED or move you to the regular admission pile. 

Jeffrey Selingo, in his book, “Who Gets In And Why, A Year Inside College Admissions,” states that the rising popularity of early decisions is the most significant contributing factor to the admissions calendar. It can be very appealing to some students to secure their spot by December of their senior year, knowing where they will be going in the Fall.  However, Selingo says, “although this might be appealing, it can speed up the decision-making for some students who are not ready to make that decision.”  So be sure about your decision if applying this way!

Regular Admission

If you didn’t apply for EA or ED, don’t despair! Regular Admission is just that – the regular time colleges review applications and make decisions. Colleges leave many of their spots open for Regular Admission, which is the largest candidate pool for admissions counselors.  

The Regular Admission deadline is typically before January 15. Again, check the date for your specific college on the college website. Acceptances from Regular Admission usually go out as early as March, but others may wait until the last minute in April.  

If you haven’t heard from a school you want to attend, you should reach out to your admission counselor to ask about the status. Just be sure not to go overboard in your communication!

Rolling Admissions

While many colleges have admissions deadlines, others have Rolling Admissions, which means you can apply any time during the school year. 

The admission counselors will review your application and get back to you with a decision. Many times they accept applications even into June or July before the Fall semester. 

Keep in mind – there are only a defined number of spaces at each college. So if it is a college you genuinely want to attend, you should apply as early as possible! 

Final Thoughts

As you make your decision between applying EA, ED, Regular Admissions, or choosing a college with Rolling Admissions, think about your goals and personality.  

Are you someone who makes quick decisions, are you someone who wants to see all your options?  

Or are you someone that wants to wait until you narrow your list down before you start applying? 

While these are personal decisions, there is some strategy involved when applying to select schools.  If you need help trying to decide which route to take in the application process, please reach out to Beth or your school counselor to discuss the options and the right strategy!