Application Options and Deadlines
Early Decision and Early Action
Early Decision – Phase I
Applying early decision (ED) plans is for students (1) who are positive that they want to attend a certain school and (2) whose academic profiles meet that of the college. By applying ED, you aresigning a binding contract and making a commitment to one school. If you are accepted, you are obligated to attend the school. You MAY NOT apply to more than one college under the early decision plan. The deadlines for completing early decision applications are in the fall of your senior year, usually no later than November 15. The college will usually notify you of its decision before December 15.
Early Decision – Phase II
Early decision phase II is for students who arrive at a final college choice after the early decision phase I deadline or for those students who wish to have their senior year first semester grades included in their applications. Like ED phase I, you are signing a binding contract and making a commitment to one school. If you are accepted, you are obligated to attend the school. The application deadline for ED phase II is usually in January. The college will usually notify you of its decision sometime in February.
Early action plans are similar to early decision plans in that you can learn early in the admission cycle whether a college has accepted you. Unlike early decision plans, most early action plans are not binding, meaning you are not committing to a college to which you've applied for early action. Some colleges have single-choice or restrictive early action, meaning you are not allowed to apply to other colleges under an early plan.
Colleges will respond to an early application in one of three ways: acceptance, rejection, or deferred to regular decision. If you are denied admission, you may not reapply to that institution through regular decision.
"To find out if early decision would benefit you, ask the admission staff two important questions: first, what proportion of the class is admitted early; second, what percentage of the early applicants are admitted versus [the percentage of] regular applicants," says Robert Massa, former vice president for enrollment and student life at Dickinson College (PA). "The higher the first numbers are versus the second, the better your chances are of being admitted if you apply early decision."
Colleges that offer rolling admissions continuously evaluate applicants and notify the applicants regarding acceptance on an ongoing basis. Rolling applications should be submitted by October 1, for your best chance of acceptance.
Most colleges require that applications for regular admissions be mailed by December 31. Check the websites of the specific colleges you select to obtain their deadlines. Most colleges will inform you of their decision by April 1 and require that you make your decision about whether to matriculate by May 1.