As if college admissions wasn't confusing enough, at many colleges you have your choice of dates to apply. This sounds like a good thing, until you realize your first application deadline might be in October or November of your senior year!
Don't panic! With a little bit of knowledge, you got this.
Early Decision: If you apply Early Decision (ED), you are agreeing that, if the college accepts you, you will attend. No questions asked. This is a binding agreement that can only be undone if your financial aid award is not sufficient. Many schools accept a higher percentage of students from their ED applicant pool because they know they can count on them to show up in September, which is not the case for regular decision applicants.
Early Action: Like Early Decision, Early Action (EA) is also really early. The difference is that early action is a non-binding agreement. You can apply to many EA schools and not agree to attend until May. This helps with financial aid, because you'll know exactly what the school will cost you before you agree, unlike Early Decision. College usually accept a greater percentage of Early Action students than of the regular application pool, but not always. Check the individual college you're thinking of because assuming you have a better chance going EA.
Single-Choice Early Action: This variant of early action requires you to apply to only one college early. You are still not obligated to attend, and you get the benefit of early admissions, but the school has less competition in this scenario. Applicants who are not accepted SCEA will often be rolled over to the regular admissions pool.
Regular Admission: Most colleges have application deadlines in January and February, otherwise known as the Dark Night of the Soul. Don't put off applications until winter break or you'll ruin your vacation.
Rolling Admissions: Many state colleges have rolling admissions, which means you can apply anytime before their final deadline (frequently in March). Be aware that these schools may have financial aid deadlines that are earlier than their last-chance application deadlines. Apply for financial aid early to get the best chance at a good award.
Open Admissions: Open admissions schools will take anyone who applies. You generally find open admissions at community colleges or very small state schools. Apply anytime.
The Bottom Line: There can be good reasons to start your college planning in your junior year, especially if you want to apply to a highly-selective school. Being ready to apply in October or November can give you a leg up in the admissions process. Be aware that its unethical for a college make you apply before October 15 or accept admission before May 1.
Do you have a friend wondering about all the different kinds of college deadlines? Use the share button to pass this along!
I'm always available to my clients by text. Contact me to learn more about how inexpensive it can be to have a college counselor on call!