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  • Naushita Jaising

Here is a list of all the different admission deadlines for US universities:

When it comes to the final submission of your applications to US colleges, January 1 is the first thing that comes to mind. Many students rush to complete applications in the last week of the year because several deadlines fall on this day. After that, they wait for April 1, when colleges declare their results. But what if we told you that universities provide several submission opportunities, which can bring you good news long before March?


  1. Early Decision

Colleges that offer Early Decision deadlines invite you to apply to them as your first choice, with a binding agreement to attend if they admit you. You, your parents, and school counselors must sign an agreement before applying through the ED program to take advantage of this opportunity. The binding nature of this deadline prevents you from rejecting the offer if accepted, and you must withdraw applications from all other colleges. In most cases, colleges will not offer admission if your application indicates financial need and the college cannot meet that need. So, consider ED only if the college ranks high on your list and you’ve evaluated the financial implications. There are two ED deadlines: 


A. ED I:

The first ED deadline falls between October and November; results are declared by mid-December. You can enjoy the rest of high school if your ED 1 college accepts you.


Advantages of applying ED I:

  • ED I has a smaller applicant pool, which reduces the competition. 

  • The acceptance rate of selective colleges is two to three times higher in the ED round. For example, Northwestern University’s overall acceptance rate is only 7.2 percent, but it accepts half of its class through ED. Similarly, Barnard College’s acceptance rate is eight percent, but its ED acceptance rate almost triples at 26 percent. Admitting a higher percentage from the ED I applicant pool reduces the regular decision admission rate. Many selective schools fill close to half their spots with Early Decision applicants. 

  • ED I lets you demonstrate your interest in attending a college, which often works in your favor. 

  • You’ll hear back about your application earlier than ED II or RD applicants.

Disadvantages of applying ED I:

  • If you’re applying ED I, you must prepare a robust application, which includes starting your Common App and supplemental essays in the summer. 

  • You must also take your SAT or ACT exams early, which means preparing months in advance.

  • Depending on your school calendar, the ED I deadline may arrive before your grade 12 mid-term exams. Therefore, admissions officers will base their decisions on your Grade 11 or predicted grades sent by your high school. 

  • If accepted in ED I, you must withdraw all applications and attend the college that has granted you admission. This means you cannot compare admission or financial aid offers that may come from Regular Decision applications. 


B. ED II:

If you need more time to improve your application or have other factors like a sports schedule or poor first-quarter grades, ED II is your second chance at a binding decision application. You can also use this deadline to apply to your second-choice college if you aren’t admitted to your first-choice in ED I. The submission deadline for ED II falls between December and January, with colleges announcing results in mid-February. Remember that if your application to a college in ED I or ED II  is unsuccessful, you cannot apply again to the same college in the same admission cycle.

Advantages of applying ED II:

  • Fewer students apply ED II than Regular Decision, so competition is less intense.

  • The ED II application deadline is often close to the Regular Decision deadline, so you won’t necessarily have to prepare your application early.

  • ED II gives you enough time to improve your scores, secure letters of recommendation, and complete your essays. It also lets you showcase your most recent accomplishments to the college.

  • Your decision will arrive one to two months earlier than Regular Decision notifications.

  • ED II applicants have the edge over Regular Decision applicants with similar credentials because they demonstrate interest and make a binding commitment.

  • ED II acceptance rates are higher than in the Regular Decision round.

Disadvantages of applying ED II:

  • Your second top-choice college may not have an ED II deadline.

  • As compared to ED I, fewer colleges offer ED II.

Strategies for applying ED I and ED II:

  • You should only apply if you are sure about your choices and are happy to attend if admitted

  • Before applying, look at the profiles of previously admitted students to know if yours falls within that range. Don’t waste your ED advantage on a college where your academic scores don’t meet the institution’s basic requirements.

  • If your top-choice college only offers RD or EA deadlines, skip ED.

  • Carefully evaluate the financial implications of an ED application based on your situation.


2. Early Action

The Early Action (EA) deadline allows you to submit applications and receive decision notifications earlier without a binding agreement to attend. Submission deadlines are usually around November 1. By mid-January, most colleges announce their decisions. Since EA isn’t binding, you don’t have to rush to reply. You have until the national response deadline on May 1 to inform the college whether you’ll attend. This way, you can weigh your options and compare the financial aid offered by other colleges. There are two EA deadlines:

  1. Unrestricted Early Action (EA)

EA allows you to apply to several colleges. The most significant benefit of EA is that since you can apply to more than one college, you increase your chances of getting multiple offers, which helps you make an informed decision earlier in the process.

  1. Restricted Early Action (REA)

REA is a non-binding deadline that allows you to apply to only one college in the early application rounds. Although not obligated to attend, schools that accept REA applications may ask you to sign a form stating that they will not apply to other early admissions programs.

Advantages of applying EA:

  • EA is non-binding, meaning you are not obligated to attend the college that offers you a spot. 

  • You will know sooner if colleges accept you, helping you better strategize your applications for regular decisions.

  • You only have to declare your decision in May, which allows you to keep your options open and compare financial aid offers from other universities. 

  • You have a higher chance of being considered for merit aid. For example, Purdue University will automatically consider university-wide merit scholarships if you apply by November. Similarly, the University of Richmond will consider all applicants who apply before December for merit aid.

Strategies for applying EA:

  • Consider applying EA only to high-target choices on your college list. Since you will receive decisions early, you may not need to apply to the safety schools you’ve listed. 

  • Irrespective of whether you choose EA or SCEA, continue working on Regular Decision applications to offset deferrals or denials. 


3. Regular Decision (RD)

RD is the most common college application deadline. RD submissions are on or around January 1, except for a few colleges, with admission notifications in March. Colleges typically begin the review process after receiving all applications. It is a non-binding deadline that allows you to send applications to several schools and is best for students who require more time to refine their applications or improve their scores.

Strategies for applying RD:

  • Use the RD option to apply to safety schools from your college list. These are colleges where you are most likely to be admitted because your academic scores exceed their averages.

  • Compare the ED/EA admit rates with those of RD. If the margin of difference is small, consider applying in the RD round.


4. Rolling Admissions

Colleges that use this process do not wait for the final deadline to begin evaluating applications. Instead, they review applications on a rolling basis against fixed criteria. These evaluations continue until the college fills all seats. Rolling Admissions are non-binding, and you can apply to several colleges simultaneously. Should more than one college offer you admission, you can choose the one that appeals to you most. The deadlines for rolling admissions are college-specific. While some universities accept applications throughout the year, others will have a specific admission window.

Strategies for rolling admissions

  • The rolling admission process is quick. The earlier you apply, the sooner you get your answer, which could be within 4-6 weeks of submitting your application.

  • When you’re on the early side of the admission window, you have a higher chance of securing admission because colleges still have their whole incoming class to fill and won’t compare you to accepted students. Those who apply later are at a disadvantage because fewer seats are available.

  • Use Rolling Admissions to space out your application load. Instead of submitting all your applications in January, you can submit a few in the early Fall and then work on more in the following months.

To understand which of these deadlines is ideal for you, speak to your mentors at OnCourse who will be able to make the most effective recommendations while keeping in mind your interests, your current academic standing, and your resume. If you are not enrolled with OnCourse, reach out to set up a consultation meeting to understand more about our mentoring programs for students from Grade 8 to Grade 12.

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