There are a couple different application cycles and terms you need to know about.
- Early Decision: BINDING. By applying as an Early Decision, you are committing to that university. In fact, ED applications have a contract that both students and parents have to provide electronic signatures for. The only way out of the contract is if there is a financial concern. Early Decision deadlines tend to be in Oct/Nov and decisions are announced prior to the Winter Holiday Break. If the university offers a 2 nd Early Decision Cycle – for students who did not apply in the first round- the deadline is typically early to mid-January, and decisions are released towards the end of February or early March.
- Early Action: NOT BINDING. Early Action means that you are simply applying at an earlier deadline, and I strongly recommend applying EA to every university on your list that offers the option to do so. Fewer students tend to apply at this deadline – either due to a lack of interest or procrastination – so the applicant pool is much smaller. It’s important to note that you still have to be a strong candidate for the university to benefit from the higher acceptance rate. Early Action deadlines tend to be around Oct/Nov, but as with all deadlines, please check with your university of choice. Early Action decisions are released prior to the Winter Holiday Break (around Mid-December).
- Rolling Admissions: Rolling admissions is a continuous admissions cycle that starts around September and ends around February/March. Basically, students can apply at any point in that timeframe and be notified of the decision in about a month. I recommend applying earlier on so that spots don’t fill up.
- Regular Admission: The general deadline for applications. Most students apply at this deadline, especially if the university does not offer Early Decision or Early Action. Deadlines can really vary, but most tend to be early to mid-January. Decisions come out late March or early April.
Even with a regular admissions deadline, I recommend applying as early as possible. Why? Because the admissions committee will be able to give more time to each application. As more and more applications start coming in, the committee now has to sort through them a bit faster to meet the deadline for releasing decisions.