Smart Definitions: College Admission Application Types

double deposit acceptance letter

If you are a high school senior and you’re applying to colleges, you should know there are several different college admission application types… and many of them can be very confusing.

Early Decision – For students who are really sure of their first-choice school and are ready to accept an offer of admission (and financial aid package, if applicable). Early Decision application deadlines typically fall between October 30 – December 1. Students are notified during December and January. Deadlines vary by school.

Related: Early Decision: It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

Applying ED carries certain expectations:

  • That the college you applied to is your first-choice and you will accept the offer of admission.
  • That you will apply to only one school as an ED applicant.
  • That acceptance of an offer admission is binding.
  • It is expected that you will withdraw all applications to other institutions.

Early Action (a.k.a. Early Action I) – For students who want to apply early (before the regular application deadline). Of the college admission application types, this is one for which the offer of admission is non-binding, meaning you are not under any obligation to accept the offer of admission. The Early Action option makes sense for students who are sure of their first-choice college but don’t want the restrictions that come with applying as an ED applicant.

Related: When It Comes To Admissions Advice, Consider the Source

Early consideration for competitive majors (where number of available slots could be limited) is a great benefit to applying Early Action. Access to certain scholarship opportunities could be significant as well (details and opportunities will vary by institution and program).

Early Action II – similar to EA I, but with a later deadline (still prior to the regular admissions deadline). Same conditions apply: non-binding; ideal for students with top/first-choice schools.

Not Ready to Apply Early?

If the timing’s not right to apply early then Regular Decision works just fine.

Regular Decision means you will apply by a specified date that usually falls between January and March, after which application review typically begins. Students will be notified by a certain date in the spring (usually by early April since the national candidate reply date to accept the offer of admission is May 1).

Rolling Admissions  means applications are accepted and reviewed on an on-going basis. Students are typically notified withing 2-4 weeks following submission.

Always check with each college you’re considering to find out which of the above application methods “apply” to their institution.

Related: When to Hit “Submit”

Updated January 2020

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