Finally, you’re ready for your college application! You’re excited about how things have panned out so far—your SAT scores, academic records, LOR’s, essays, all seem perfect—and you’re raring to go. But hold your horses, buddy. First take a look at the types of college deadlines because the timing of your application may make all the difference between acceptance and rejection.
In the early decision, you must send your application in the month of November (in your 12th standard) to get a decision the following month i.e. December. This is a great option because of two reasons: one, you have greater chances of making it to your college of choice if you apply early on—you face lesser competition with fewer applicants vying for the available seats. And two, it puts you at ease about college—you can focus on your board exams for the next three months.
However, there’s a catch. Early decision is binding, meaning that if the college offers you an admission, you cannot refuse. You would also have to withdraw your application from all the other colleges that you have applied to in the past. Also, as you can apply to only one school under early decision, make that choice very carefully after talking it over with your counsellor. Check out early decision options of Johns Hopkins, Cornell and University of Pennsylvania.
The best part about early action is that it is non-binding. You have to send your application in November and you receive an admission decision by December. At times, your application may be deferred to a regular decision date, especially if the early application pool is too competitive. In that case, it is advisable to contact the admissions office and ask if you could provide any additional documents to strengthen your application. Do this only if you are very interested in the college.
Some colleges, however, have a restrictive clause attached to the early action. For instance, Harvard restricts you to apply for an early action anywhere else if you have applied for an early action decision with them. Ditto for Stanford, Princeton and Yale. This type of deadline is also known as Single Choice Early Action.
These are the most commonly available deadlines. They are non-binding, meaning you can apply to and get accepted by many colleges at the same time. For fall admissions, regular decision applications must reach colleges by January/February of that year to get an admission decision by the next month. While the early decision may seem a great option as far as admission chances are concerned, if you are a price-sensitive applicant (relying on financial aid), it is advisable to apply under regular decision.
Colleges that offer rolling admissions provide a large application window to students. The admission decision is made as and when the application reaches the admissions office. Since applications are processed as they are received, available seats can fill up quickly. This means that you need to apply early on. Schools that offer rolling admissions may still have certain deadlines, for instance, Penn State offers rolling admissions but has a priority deadline of November 30.
Not all colleges offer all deadlines so keep track of individual ones by visiting their websites. When armed with the correct information you will know exactly when to apply and deadlines cease to be dreadlines!