Early action, early decision, rolling admissions, regular admissions – it’s enough to make your head spin! Like so many things in life, success in the college admissions process depends, at least in part, on timing. Not only do you have to ensure that you don’t miss deadlines along the way (e.g. for standardized testing or deadlines related to financing your college education), but you also need to give thought to your college admissions strategy as it relates to the timing of your applications.
Here is a very brief run-down of your options:
Early Action – Students applying to a school using the early action option will usually submit their completed applications by mid-November and hear back from colleges by January. However, being accepted via early action does not commit the applicant to that particular college or university, and students usually don’t need to inform the college of whether to expect them at orientation or not until May 1st. It’s also nice to know that you can apply via early action to more than one school.
Early Decision – As is the case with early action, an early decision applicant applies to his/her dream college in the fall. However, there are crucial differences to note between early action and early decision! To begin with, you can only apply to one school using the early decision option, and you should only apply to this one school if you really, and I mean really, want to go there, because if you’re accepted then you’ve already committed yourself to attending. In short, if you’ve gotten down on one knee, proposed, and the school responded (usually by December) saying, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!“, then it’s time to plan the wedding.
Rolling Admissions – A college with a rolling admissions policy will accept applications at any time, up until a final deadline. An advantage for students of applying via rolling admissions is that they should hear soon after submitting their application whether they’ve been accepted, and won’t have to wait until March or April for a response.
Regular Admissions – With this option, you decide to apply to a college by meeting its regular, normal, good ol’ fashioned admissions deadline.
A future post will consider the pros and cons of these different strategies, but for now know that not every college offers these options, so do your research. “Where should I begin?”, you may ask, perhaps feeling a bit overwhelmed. An excellent starting point would be to take a closer look at the colleges (and there are over 500 of them) that accept the Common Application. Check out this page for a list of schools, which types of admissions options they offer, and what their specific deadlines are. Yes, your head may be spinning but there’s a simple way to calm the vertigo and get your feet more firmly planted on the ground – plan ahead! I suggest the following:
Buy a calendar. Write important deadlines on that calendar. Update that calendar frequently.
Whatever your strategy turns out to be (early action, early decision, regular admissions), the deadlines are crucial. Put them on your shiny, new calendar. Use red ink.
Whether you are a natural planner or need to force yourself to go out and buy that calendar, being as organized as possible throughout the process is truly the best way to keep yourself from feeling completely overwhelmed, to keep your head from spinning.