It’s so exciting applying to uni, you probably wish you didn’t have to wait until May to find out where you’re going… but what if you didn’t have to wait? This guide breaks down the range of application windows for US colleges and universities.
1. Early Decision and Early Action
Sometimes, you know exactly where you want to go to university. Universities are very happy about this, so they’ve created two ways to make things easier for students who are very confident about their top choice: ‘Early Decision’ and ‘Early Action’ applications.
These applications are usually due between November and early January, which is significantly earlier than the usual deadlines, so you have to be prepared if you want to apply early! Some schools will have two ‘Early’ phases, but there’s generally no difference between them in terms of requirements.
The big upside to Early Decision and Early Action is that you hear back earlier, too: sometimes as early as December or January. Applying early also increases your chances of getting accepted, sometimes by a lot: for example, in 2018, the normal acceptance rate to Brown university was 7%, but during early decision, it was 18%.
There are a few simple but important differences between the two Early types: for Early Decision, if you’re accepted, you have to attend. Early Action is usually non-binding, meaning you can still turn them down. You also can usually only apply to one school Early Decision, whereas it’s alright to apply to multiple Early Action institutions.
Let’s take a closer look.
- Find out early where you’ll be going
- Increase your chances of getting into a competitive school
- Save time by only filling out one application
- You can only apply to one university Early Decision (sometimes Early Action allows you to apply to more)
- Early Decision acceptances are binding: if you get in, you have to go (Early Action decisions are not binding)
- No opportunity to receive multiple financial aid offers to compare
- Applications must be completed very early (This can be a pro if you’re already done anyway!)
2. Regular Application
Regular Application - as the name suggests - is the most common form of application.
Regular application deadlines can vary, but they’re usually between December and January, with results announced in March or April. The decisions are always non-binding.
Some good reasons to consider submitting at the regular deadline:
- You can compare multiple offers of financial aid to see which institution can meet your needs
- More time to research different universities
- More time to work on your application
- More time to decide where you want to go
- More flexibility to consider your options once you’re accepted
- More time to improve your grades or add extracurriculars during the fall term
3. Rolling Application
Rolling application means the institution sets a starting date and then as students apply, the institution fills up the available places with qualified candidates. This can be great because it means you’ll hear back relatively soon, but it can also be a problem; the university could potentially run out of slots before you even have a chance to apply.
If an institution offers Rolling Applications, apply as close to the opening date as you possibly can. In some ways, it’s better to think of this as a form of Early Decision, at least when it comes to timelines.
However, like with Regular Applications, acceptance decisions for Rolling Applications are non-binding.