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  • Bentham Team

College Deadlines You Can’t Miss

In a nutshell:

  • Most applications will open August 1 for students applying for fall 2023 enrollment.

  • College deadlines most often fall between November and February, though some Early Action deadlines are as early as mid October.

  • Early admission means submitting your application sooner, usually by mid October to November 1.

  • Applying Regular Decision gives you more time to work on application essays and take exams, but some schools will have already admitted a quarter to nearly half of next year’s Freshman class.

No matter how perfect your essays, how impressive your activities list, or how brilliant your grades, if you miss the regular admission application deadline you’re out of luck. Nothing is more important than meeting the deadline,

Admissions deadlines vary from school to school, and you would be best served by finding the deadlines at the schools where you want to apply (a simple Google search); be sure to write those deadlines down. Some schools, like Georgia Tech and UNC Chapel Hill, had mid-October deadlines for Early Action applications last year. So find out this information as early as you can.

This is the confusing part - there are four kinds of application deadlines: early action (and restricted early action, or REA), early decision, regular admission, and rolling admission. Let’s talk about what these terms mean, and what you need to do to meet your deadlines.

Early Decision

When you apply Early Decision, you are committing to attend that school if you are accepted. Therefore, you can only apply to one school Early Decision. There is a second round of Early Decision at many schools, that usually shares the regular decision deadline. Again, you can only apply to one school ED2. Only under very limited circumstances, such as an inability to pay the tuition, are you released from an Early Decision commitment. For this reason, some students are reluctant to apply Early Decision, even though the odds of getting in are more favorable. They have not yet fully researched colleges and universities, and are afraid of making a mistake. Early Decision is offered by most private schools - state schools opt for Early Action, which we’ll discuss below.

Why apply early? Because Early Decision is an advantage. The ED applicant pool is significantly smaller than that of regular decision, and colleges may select a quarter to a third or more of next year’s class Early Decision. That means fewer spaces left for regular admission applicants. Also, you get your decision earlier and get to enjoy the rest of your Senior year, including the holidays. Do your research early and decide with confidence where you want to apply Early Decision before the fall of your senior year. Not only will this allow you to apply Early Decision without doubts, but it will also spare you the expense of time and money that goes into applying to ten or fifteen schools because you just don’t know what you want. If you apply to that many schools, it will be a case of diminishing returns: you will not be able to write all of those essays well, and so you will end up doing a subpar job on most of the applications… So why do it? Make a list of five to ten schools, and start early so you can do every application justice.

Reasons not to apply Early Decision:

  • If you haven’t done your research, and don’t know for sure that this is your ideal school

  • If you’re going to need financial aid, bear in mind that you will not get a competitive financial aid package if the college already knows you’re accepting their offer.

  • If you want to attend a public university. Public Universities like the UCs or the University of North Carolina don’t offer Early Decision. They offer Early Action.


If you have been deferred (once you have been deferred, even though you are still in the regular admission applicant pool, you are no longer obliged to attend that school if you are accepted regular admission) or rejected by your ED school, you can apply to another school early decision if they offer a second early decision deadline, commonly referred to as ED2. In this case you are applying at the regular admission deadline, but specifying ED2, which means you are committing to that school if they accept you. It’s not as big of an advantage as ED1, but it’s still an advantage. And they’re more likely to offer you a place if they know that you intend to accept.

Early Action

Early Action means that you apply early and get a decision early, but in this case you are not obliged to attend that school - it is non binding. Schools offer EA for the same reason they offer ED - to help determine their yield by getting commitments from applicants early. EA doesn’t help them determine their yield nearly as much as ED does, so the advantage to the applicant is less significant, but it’s still an advantage. For one thing, you are demonstrating your eagerness to attend. Bear in mind that Early Action can be EARLY. As soon as you settle on a state university, find out the EA deadline. Early Decision candidates will hear the verdict in late December.


Certain highly prestigious schools, like Harvard, also offer Restricted Early Action, or REA. REA is a form of early action, so it’s nonbinding - you do not have to accept their offer of admission, but it is restricted, which means you can’t apply early or early decision to any other schools. Many REA schools only restrict you from applying early to other private institutions. This means you can still apply EA to as many public universities as you wish. In any case, unless you are an extraordinarily qualified candidate, don’t throw your ED and EA chances away on REA. The acceptance rate is very small. Read the fine print carefully when looking at the restrictions and deadlines of REA at a particular school. You will get a decision in lat November or December..

Rolling Admission

Rather than maintaining set deadlines, colleges with rolling admission evaluate applications as they come in. These schools usually offer several application windows a year. In general, they'll accept and review applications until all spots in the upcoming class are filled.

Most rolling-admission colleges open admissions in early September, and will accept applicants through the spring, depending on how many spots remain. Some schools may adhere to the May 1 deadline. Again, you have to do your research and determine the deadlines school by school. Depending on the school, applying early for rolling admission can have a definite advantage.

Whichever way you choose to apply, start early enough so that you can get enthusiastic and carefully thought-out recommendations, brilliant essays, and a perfectly crafted activities list. If this seems daunting, Bentham Admissions is here to help.


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