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5 College Applications Deadlines You Need to Know

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Applying to college means a lot of deadlines to keep track of! This post details all the different types and their dates to help you out a little during this stressful time. 


Application Deadlines


Early Decision/Early Action


Both of these deadlines are earlier than Regular Decision (RD). Most of the early deadlines are October 15, November 1, or November 15, but make sure to double check with the specific colleges you’re applying to because some deadlines are later. 


Early Decision (ED) is legally binding: if you apply ED, you have to sign a contract saying that you will attend that college if you get in, and you are not applying ED anywhere else. Since this is binding, you should be certain that this school is the one you want to attend. Also, if you are accepted ED, you’ll have to withdraw your other submitted applications. You can learn more about ED in our post, Is Applying Early Decision Right for You? Also check out our list of ED deadlines for every college to stay on top of deadlines!


On the other hand, Early Action (EA) is not binding; since the deadline is earlier, you also hear back from the colleges sooner than with RD. Additionally, you can apply to any number of schools EA. For more information about individual schools’ deadlines, check out this complete list of EA deadlines.


Some schools offer Restricted Early Action (REA), which is like EA in that it doesn’t commit you to that particular college, but it does restrict you from applying to any other schools EA. Check out our post on EA vs ED vs REA to find out more about each type of deadline and which one is best for you!


University of California Application


The UC schools are a bit different. All nine schools share one application, and you can send it to as many of the UCs as you desire. You can submit your application anytime between November 1st – November 30th, but you can access and work on it before that! It’s important to note that their deadline is before the RD one, but they also don’t offer EA or ED – they just follow their own timeline. Here’s our Ultimate Guide to Applying to the University of California to help you learn more about their system.


Early Decision II and Regular Decision


Multiple selective schools offer Early Decision II. ED II has the same deadline as RD, but it’s binding: if you are admitted, you must enroll at this school. With ED II, you can demonstrate commitment without applying early. If you get accepted, you will have to withdraw your other applications. 


The Regular Decision deadline is typically sometime in January (normally the 1st or 15th). 


Rolling Admissions


Some colleges open application submissions very early, typically in August, and take applications during a large window of a few months. You also hear back within a few weeks of submitting your application – the schools don’t wait until everyone has submitted, but rather operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. The earlier you apply with Rolling Admissions, the better, as there are more open seats.

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Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

How Does Applying Early Impact Your Chances?


Applying early does help your chances of getting into the school you want, particularly if you choose ED, as this is a binding decision and shows commitment. When controlling for profile strength, ED applicants are accepted at a rate 10-12% higher than RD applicants. REA applicants have a 6-8% benefit, and the EA benefit is 4-6%.


Submitting earlier is especially beneficial in the case of Rolling Admissions too, as there are more spots the earlier you apply. Additionally, some colleges have a merit scholarship priority deadline (usually in early December), where anyone who submits before this date is automatically considered for a merit scholarship to that school. It also may be helpful to apply early to avoid technical issues and save yourself some stress!


Our free chancing engine can help you determine which schools you have a good chance at. Though it doesn’t account for ED/EA chances yet, knowing which schools you are more likely to get into can help inform your decision as to where you apply early.



Other Deadlines to Watch Out For


Letters of Recommendation


Asking a teacher for a letter of recommendation can seem daunting at first, but they are excited to help you out! Make sure to ask two or three teachers who know you well and whose classes you’ve succeeded or put a lot of effort in, so they can write you a good letter. 


You want to have a list by the end of your junior year, and ask for the letters by the beginning of your senior year. Make sure you ask teachers a few months before your application deadline, because they’ll need the time to write you a really good letter. You can even ask the summer before senior year to give them a heads up. Also keep in mind that they’re doing this because they want to, so make sure to be polite and considerate when asking.


SAT/ACT Sittings and Score Reports


You should plan on taking the SAT/ACT so that your results arrive before your application deadline. It’s also smart to give yourself enough time to take it again, if you’re not happy with your results the first time around. We recommend taking the SAT/ACT at least six weeks before your application deadline.


  • ED or EA (November 1 or 15 deadline): plan on the October SAT and the mid-September ACT as your last chance.
  • RD (January deadline): plan on the early December SAT/ACT as your last chance.


Keep in mind that these are the latest dates possible. You should try to test as early as spring of your junior year to streamline the process and allow for retakes. 


Financial Aid (FAFSA, CSS Profile)


Financial aid can be a large help in paying for college, and everyone should apply if possible! There are many options, including loans, grants, and scholarships that can help. 


Two options are the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, both of which require applications. The FAFSA awards federal aid while the CSS Profile awards institution-based aid. The FAFSA opens in October and closes June 30th, but it’s better to fill this out as early as possible because many colleges have individual deadlines. The CSS profile is run by College Board, which also administers the SAT and AP exams. The deadline for this is determined by each college.


In general, you should aim to submit both forms around the time of your application deadline.


Making a Decision


Many colleges ask for a deposit by May 1st, though deadlines vary depending on the individual school. You may be accepted off a waitlist later in the summer, but it’s possible that you will have to put down a deposit at another school first.


Choosing which college to attend is an important financial decision that you should make with your parents. If you’re unhappy with the offers you receive, there are steps you can take to move past it – you’ll thrive wherever you end up. Pro/con lists can be a big help in deciding between schools! 

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I'm originally from Vienna, VA and go to William & Mary. Other than writing, I enjoy baking and reading! I'm a member of my university's rowing team and am also a research assistant in a psychology lab.