What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Is There an Advantage to Submitting College Applications Early?

You’ve probably heard about different timelines for applying to college. Some of you may even be considering applying through an early action or early decision program, where your application would be due a couple months before many regular decision deadlines. But, have you ever wondered if you should submit your regular decision application early? Would there be any advantage to submitting your application well before the actual deadline?


In this post we’ll look deeper at application timelines, and discuss the few instances in which you might want to submit an application well before the deadline. Keep reading to find out more!


The Difference between EA/ED and Simply Submitting an Application Early


It can be easy to confuse applying Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED) with simply submitting your application early, as sometimes people will say “apply early” to mean “apply EA/ED.” 


To clarify, EA/ED programs are designed to allow students to apply to their first choice colleges on an accelerated timeline. ED is binding and limited to one school, while EA is non-binding, and generally has no school limit. Applying EA/ED often increases a student’s shot at admissions. Colleges also love EA/ED because most early acceptances will end up enrolling, which increases a college’s yield and allows them to better estimate incoming class sizes. To learn more about EA/ED, check out our post Does Applying Early Decision Increase My Chances?


On the other hand, submitting an application well before the deadline normally has no impact on your odds of acceptance. There are a few specific circumstances, though, when submitting an application before the deadline can ultimately help your chances. We’ll describe a few of them below. 



Situations Where There is an Advantage to Submitting College Applications Before the Deadline


Rolling Admissions


Rolling admissions is when applications get reviewed as they’re received, rather than after the application deadline. Because applications are reviewed when they’re submitted, the class gradually fills up. There is no hard deadline, so admissions is almost on a first come, first serve basis. Of course, your qualifications are still taken into account. 


The earlier you apply, however, the more spots are available, so admissions standards may be slightly lower. If you wait until just a few seats remain in the class, you will need to be one of the top remaining applicants in order to snag one. 


Merit Scholarship Consideration


Some colleges have an automatic merit scholarship priority deadline. When this is the case, students who submit a complete application before that deadline will be automatically considered for merit scholarships.


For example, at Purdue and The Ohio State University, the deadline to be considered for merit scholarships is November 1. At the University of Richmond, the deadline is December 1. While this may vary slightly from school to school, the priority deadlines for merit scholarships are generally all at least a month before Regular Decision (RD) deadlines. 


At other schools, you’re required to submit your application first, and then apply for merit scholarships on a separate application altogether. For example, at Vanderbilt, merit scholarship applications are due on December 1, while at Washington University St. Louis, they are due December 15. The RD deadlines for Vandy and WashU are both in early January, however. So, you’ll want to submit your main application before well before the merit scholarship deadline (even if the actual main application deadline is later), so you have ample time to complete the merit scholarship application.


The bottom line is that if you want to earn merit scholarships, you’re most likely going to need to submit your application before the RD deadline. The specific requirements and process for this vary from school to school, so make sure you do your research well in advance to avoid missing any deadlines. 


Avoiding Technical Issues


The final reason some students submit their applications well before the regular application deadlines is simply to avoid a potential headache, or worse. There have been nightmares of the Common App site crashing or slowing down on the day before applications are due. If this is something you’re concerned about, there’s an easy solution—avoid the stress altogether by completing and submitting your application early. 


We recommend that regardless of whether you plan to submit your application “early” or not, two days before the final regular application deadline is a smart time to have your application complete, with final edits, and ready to press that giant “SUBMIT” button. Once you’ve submitted it, you can safely sit back and watch the last minute chaos ensue from afar. 


Final Thoughts


Submitting a college application early isn’t a necessity, and in most cases, it will not give you any distinct advantage, other than knowing that you’ve put the stress behind you. Still, there are some specific instances in which submitting an application early is either a good idea, or even a necessity. Ultimately, you’ll need to do your own research for your programs and schools to decide if submitting an application well before the regular decision deadline is the right choice for you. 


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.