The College Application Process

The college application process can be a bit confusing. There are so many different terms and deadlines that it can be difficult to distinguish one from another. For instance, you might have heard phrases such as “early action”, “early decision”, or “regular decision” in regards to the college application process. These are three distinct ways to apply to colleges and they all have their own deadlines and terms. Understanding these three terms can significantly help you plan and take advantage of the admissions process. Remember to keep in mind that colleges accept applications in different ways as well. The two most common are “rolling” admission or admitting by a particular date. Some even hold interviews after reviewing an application. Below are summaries of each of the three ways to apply to colleges.

Early Decision

  • Use this option if you are 100% positive you want to attend one particular school. You cannot apply Early Decision to multiple schools.

  • Application deadline is usually early November.

  • Admission decisions are released around December depending on the school.

  • If accepted, you must commit to that college. Also, you must withdraw all other applications to other colleges.

  • If not accepted, you may continue to apply to other colleges.

Early Action

  • Application deadline is around early November.

  • Admission decisions are released by January or February depending on the school.

  • If accepted, you don't have to commit to that college immediately like Early Decision.

  • Sometimes, schools give priority consideration to students who apply early. You might also have a shot at getting more scholarship money.

  • You can keep your other applications and wait for further acceptance from regular decision applications.

  • You must commit to one college by the national response date, May 1st.

Regular Decision

  • Application deadline is in January or February, depending on the college.

  • Admissions decisions are released around March or early April.

  • You don't have to commit to a particular college immediately. You have until the national response date, May 1st, to choose one college.