College admissions applications are opening all over the country. If students have not started their applications yet, they will be starting soon. However, some will have a hard choice to make when it is time to apply. How will they apply? Colleges offer many options including early action, early decision, regular decision and rolling admissions. These terms are very confusing and for some, overwhelming. What do they mean and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Early Decision (ED). For many early decision schools, the application is due in November and the students will receive their decisions in mid-December. Students can only apply to one institution early decision, but can apply to other colleges regular decision. If the student is accepted to the institution early decision, they must withdraw their applications at all other colleges and commit to attending without seeing a financial aid offer. Frequently acceptance rates for early decision are higher than for regular admission. However, if students are not accepted early decision, they are usually still eligible for regular decision.
Early decision is great for students who are 100% sure they want to attend that particular college. While students applying regular decision sometimes have to wait until April to receive an admissions decision, early decision students find out early and do not have to stress about getting in for very long. However, financial aid can be an issue. Most early decision colleges will offer financial aid packages that come close to meeting the student’s financial need (as defined by the FAFSA), but students will not be able to compare financial aid offers from other institutions.
Early Action (EA). Just like early decision, early action allows students to apply to colleges early (usually in November) and admissions decisions will be given typically in December. Early action applications are non-binding and students can apply to multiple colleges. Although students receive notification of their admission decisions early, they have until May 1 to choose the college they will attend.
Restrictive Early Action. Just like regular early action, students will apply to a college early and receive their admissions decision early. Many restrictive early action colleges expect students to not apply to other early decision or early action colleges. However, students are able to apply regular decision at other colleges. Students applying restrictive early action still have until May 1 to decide the college they will attend. This allows students to compare admissions and financial aid offers from all colleges before making the final decision.
For all early admissions applications, students should make sure they take their time with the application. Many students rush their applications to meet the early deadlines and make mistakes. Therefore, if students plan to apply early to any colleges, they should start the application process as early as possible to ensure they submit great applications and essays.
Regular Decision. The application deadline for regular decision is usually later than early action and early decision deadlines. This later date gives students longer to prepare their applications for admission. However, colleges do not offer an expedited admissions decision like early action and early decision. While some colleges give decisions quickly, many do not send regular decisions until mid to late March. Students will then have until May 1 to decide the college they will attend.
Rolling Admission. Colleges that offer rolling admission usually open their applications in the fall and continue accepting applications as space permits throughout the summer. While students can apply whenever they want, there are priority deadlines for financial aid and housing. Therefore, students should still apply to colleges offering rolling admission early to improve their chances of admission, financial aid and housing. Most colleges offering rolling admission typically send out admissions decisions within a few weeks of receiving the completed application.
There are advantages and disadvantages to all ways of applying to college. Before making the decision, students should weigh these factors and choose the option that is best for them. Lastly, students should take their time with the application, no matter how they are applying. The application and personal statements are very important in the decision process. Therefore, students should not rush through the process, but take their time to ensure they make no mistakes.