REGULAR ADMISSIONSUsually between November and January. The admissions board reviews all applications and sends out acceptances and rejection letters on the same date or date range. University of Washington has one deadline: Nov 15.  University of California schools have one deadline: Nov 30.

This is an application program at some schools — usually larger public universities — in which applications are accepted, evaluated, and decided upon as they are received. Applications are accepted until the college fills all its spaces. There is no limit to the number of Rolling Admissions schools to which you can apply even if you apply to EA, ED, or REA colleges. WSU is rolling.

EARLY ACTION (EA) I AND II – usually Nov 1 or 15.  NON-BINDING.  Meaning you may apply to multiple schools early and are not committed to attending one until “decision day” on May 1st.” Decision by mid-December.

EARLY DECISION (ED) I AND II     usually Nov 1 or 15.  BINDING.  Only 5% of applicants nationwide choose this path.  If accepted, obligated to attend, and must withdraw all other applications. That can mean accepting the school’s financial aid award, even if a better offer might have materialized from another university. If the student does not get admitted to an ED college, the applicant can then apply ED II to another college with a later deadline. Some ED colleges allow students to apply to other early application programs if they are not binding; but others don’t. Decision by mid-December.

RESTRICTED EARLY ACTION (AKA, SINGLE-CHOICE EARLY ACTION) usually Nov 1 or 15.  Non-binding early action admission option in which a student may not apply to any other private schools’ early program, except non-binding rolling admission programs, a public college or university whose admission is not binding, private colleges regular decision programs, an ED II program, if notification of admission occurs after January 1. Like EA applicants, student has until May 1 to decide if she/he wants to attend the college or university. Schools that offer REA programs are Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Applicants are asked to sign a statement stipulating that they agree to file only one early application.

Having identified all the above, every year many colleges seem to change what they do about early applications. The best approach to finding out how schools on your college list handle early applications is to go to their individual admissions websites and/or call admissions offices directly.

Many students and parents want to know whether applying early will give applicants an edge. The short answer is yes, because recent data shows a greater percentage of early admissions candidates are accepted compared to regular decision applicants.  However, this might be reflective of the EA candidates. Applying early will not help you if you are not a competitive applicant. When push comes to shove, though, “hooked” students tend to have a better chance of getting accepted in early plans. What does “hooked” mean? It is an applicant who has a substantial admission edge if they apply early (or for that matter, regular) admission because they are:

  • A very desirable, recruited athlete
  • An applicant with a distinct, noteworthy talent the college is looking for
  • High potential, under-represented and/or disadvantaged minority students
  • Students who are children of major donors to the college
  • Students who are legacies (children of a parent who is an alumnus)
  • Children of celebrities, wealthy business executives, politicians, etc.
  • Faculty children

Every year, college admissions websites provide information about how many students they admit from early admissions versus regular admissions.

There are three outcomes of applying early: Acceptance, Deferral and Denial.