You may be thinking about submitting an early application or two to colleges this season. If so, you may find this primer helpful.
Early deadlines are often in the first week or two of November, and decisions are usually released around mid-December. If your application is denied, you typically can’t reapply under the regular deadline. Some colleges will defer applications to the regular round if they can’t make a decision (or don’t want to) in the early round. In that case, your application will be reviewed again in Regular Decision and you’ll usually be sent a final decision by April 1.
Early Action is on the more flexible end of the early deadline spectrum. You can apply Early Action to multiple colleges, and to any colleges with early deadlines that don’t impose their own restrictions. If you’re admitted, you have until May 1 to decide if you want to accept the offer, and you can apply to more colleges during the Regular Decision round.
If you apply Early Decision, you can apply to other colleges with Early Action or other non-restrictive early deadlines. However, Early Decision is a binding agreement, meaning if you’re admitted, you’re obligated to attend that school. If you’re admitted Early Decision you need to withdraw all of your other college applications. The only exception to this is if you absolutely can’t attend for financial reasons.
Early Decision II
Early Decision II is similar to Early Decision in that it’s a binding agreement. If you’re admitted Early Decision II, you’re obligated to attend. However, Early Decision II deadlines are a bit later in the year, usually in January, with notification dates typically in mid-February. This is a good choice for students who perhaps weren’t admitted to their top choice early application school, or who discovered a school late, but still want to submit an “early” application. A relatively small number of schools have ED II, so be sure to check if schools of interest to you offer this option.
Restrictive or Single Choice Early Action
This deadline is less common, but still important to be aware of. Restrictive or Single Choice Early Action deadlines are non-binding, and have most of the same characteristics as Early Action. You don’t have to attend if admitted, and you can apply to other schools Regular Decision. The main difference, however, is that under Single Choice Early Action you may not be allowed to submit early applications to certain other colleges. Under some Restrictive Early Action programs (Harvard, Yale), you can apply early to public universities; under others, you can apply to other Early Action schools, but not an Early Decision school (Georgetown). And still under others (Michigan, UNC), you can do either EA or ED at other schools.
Schools with Rolling Admission deadlines make admissions decisions on a continuing basis throughout the year, until space in the freshman class is filled. The class at Rolling Admission schools can fill up fairly quickly, especially at the more popular institutions. If you’re interested in a school with Rolling Admission, it’s important to submit your application as early as possible. That will give you the best shot of being admitted.
Applying early can be a great idea. It can help alleviate stress later on in the process. You could end up with an early acceptance in your pocket before Regular Decision rolls around. Having submitted a college application already, you’ll feel more confident about submitting applications later on. Just remember to pay attention to specific early deadlines, be sure you know what you’re committing (or not committing) to, and that you’re following each school’s guidelines.