Timing / Plans: Early, Regular, Rolling
The chart below offers some general guidelines with respect to the timing of various admission plans. Note: There is considerable school-to-school variation on the timing of plan deadlines and notification. Please check the colleges’ websites for full information.
Early decision (ED) plans allow you to apply early (usually in November) and get an admission decision from the college well in advance of the regular decision notification date (usually in mid-December). ED decisions are considered binding, which means that if you apply as an ED candidate you agree to attend the college if it accepts you and offers an adequate financial aid package. Although you can apply to only one college for early decision, you may apply to other colleges under regular admission. If you’re accepted early decision at a school, you must withdraw all other applications.
Many schools offer two rounds of early decision, Early Decision I (generally November deadline, mid-December notification) and Early Decision II (generally January deadline, mid-February notification). The second round is designed and timed to allow a student to apply to a "second first-choice school” after hearing from their initial first-choice school. Both rounds are considered binding.
ED candidates in either round will receive one of three decisions: acceptance, deferral, or denial. Those denied admission in either round will not be reconsidered during the regular season.
Note: Early decision policies vary from school to school, so please check each college's website for full information.
Early action (EA) plans are similar to early decision plans in that you are asked to submit your application early (usually in November) and can receive an admission decision from the college well in advance of the usual notification date (usually in mid-December). However, unlike early decision, early action plans are non-binding, meaning you do not have to commit to a college to which you’ve been admitted early action. Under some EA plans you may actually apply early to other colleges; under others, generally referred to as “single-choice” or “restrictive” early action, you may NOT apply early to any other school (this does not include rolling admission, see below). In both cases, you are not required to make a commitment until the May 1st notification date, allowing you to compare offers of financial aid before making a decision.
EA candidates will receive one of three decisions: acceptance, deferral, or denial. Those denied admission under early action will not be reconsidered during the regular decision process.
Note: Early action policies vary from school to school, so please check each college's website for full information.
Regular decision or regular action refers to the standard application option at most colleges, wherein students can apply to any number of schools simultaneously (usually by early or mid-January, though there are colleges with open deadlines into the spring) and retain full freedom of choice once decisions are rendered. Students are generally notified of admission decisions by early April and are asked to respond with a commitment by May 1.
Regular decision candidates will receive one of three decisions: acceptance, denial or waitlist. Those denied admission will not be considered for the waitlist.
Rolling admission refers to plans in which applications are reviewed in the order they’re received, and applicants are admitted on a space-available basis. We strongly encourage students to apply to these colleges as early as possible in the fall of their senior year, as admission will get increasingly competitive as spots in the incoming class dwindle. Bear in mind that applications will not be read until all materials are received by the college.