You can have the perfect SAT score and a 4.0 GPA, but if you miss your college application deadlines, then it will all be in vain. In fact, for students with any range of scores and GPA, applications deadlines for colleges are of utmost importance. That’s because institutions have a distinct timeline for when you must submit your information to be considered for acceptance into the college(s) of your choice.
Did you know that there are various times for which you can apply for schools? There are also binding decision options like Early Decision, for example. We’ve pulled together all you need to know so that understanding college applications deadlines is made easy.
College Application Deadline Options
There are a few different options you have in terms of timing when it comes to preparing and submitting your documentation. The most commonly used application timeline is Regular Decision. However, some students choose to apply earlier, and therefore, will receive their verdict earlier, as well. There are pros and cons to each type of application.
Let’s take a look at what they mean — then you can look over the graphical representation of timing, upsides, and downsides for each.
Regular Decision is when most students apply for college. Typically, the submissions open in early January. For University of California (UC) schools, the application deadline is November 30. Some other schools will give the deadline of January 1 or 15. Some even may have later deadlines through April. With Regular Decision, students typically hear back as to whether they’ve been admitted or rejected in March or April. Students then have until May 1 (national response day) to decide where they wish to attend.
Students can instead choose to apply Early Action (EA). This generally means that applications are due on November 1 or November 15. Since applications are due sooner than the January date, students hear back typically around December. In some cases, when you choose to apply EA, the school will deploy what’s called a restrictive (or single choice) early action program. This means that you can only apply as EA to their institution. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, and the University of Notre Dame have single-choice early action programs, for example.
Like Early Action, Early Decision (ED) also allows students to apply and hear back sooner than Regular Decision applicants. However, with Early Decision, students enter a binding agreement, so if they are accepted under ED, then they are committing to attend that institution. A major implication here is that when you apply ED, you do so before being able to review your financial aid package and awards. The deadlines are like that of Early Action — November 1 or November 15 with a decision being made in December.
Additionally, some schools have an Early Decision II timeframe, which allows students to apply by January and hear back around February.
The most flexible type of admissions process is called Rolling admissions. Rolling admissions gives a window of time for which students must submit their application. It generally works on a first come, first serve basis. For students applying to rolling admissions schools, it’s recommended to set your own deadline so that you don’t procrastinate for too long.
College Application Types Summary
Typical/ Common Deadline(s): January 1, January 15
Pros: More time to decide, assess options, and submit documentation
Cons: Extra time can create more stress having to wait on the decision
Early Action (EA)
Typical/ Common Deadline(s): November 1, November 15
Pros: Finish the process and hear back sooner, can compare financial aid packages, potentially less stress
Cons: Still competitive, might be restrictive
Early Decision (ED)
Typical/ Common Deadline(s): November 1, November 15
Pros: Complete the process early, potentially less stress, good if you have a clear first choice school
Cons: Won’t know financial aid award upfront, have to make a commitment early
Typical/ Common Deadline(s): Check your school for any priority deadlines or financial aid deadlines
Pros: More flexibility, more control over your own timing
Cons: Potential to procrastinate and lose out because of first come, first serve nature of the decision
What do You Need to Apply to College?
Now that you know when you need to apply, let’s review what you need to have ready for your college applications. While different types of institutions will have their own respective requirements, the general list of items will likely include:
Standardized Test Scores
Some schools will require that you take either the ACT or SAT and submit your scores as part of the application. It may be possible that you must submit your application before you receive the official scores. In this case, you can list unofficial scores and then send the official score only after you’ve been accepted. Colleges will list their required (or desired) SAT and/or ACT scores so students have an idea of their eligibility and likelihood of acceptance.
For Regular Decision applicants, it’s best to take the exams in the fall of your junior year (and then, if you have to take it again for a better score, you can do so in the spring of senior year). For Early Decision or Early Action applicants, you’ll have to take the exam(s) in August, September, and/or October.
You’ll have to send your official high school transcripts to your colleges. These transcripts show every class you’ve taken (which helps admissions committees assess the difficulty level of your coursework), as well as the grades you received. Your overall GPA is also included.
Letters of Recommendation
Some schools will request letters of recommendation from your teachers or employers. Depending on the school, you may need to provide one or two of these.
The college essay, also known as a personal statement, generally comes in the form of a prompt or the choice of several prompts which you respond to in the given word count. It’s best to start this as early as possible so that you can review, edit, and seek feedback.
Application Requirements at the University of the People
In order to make college accessible to anyone who wants an education, the University of the People believes in relatively minimum application requirements. At our institution, students who are at least 16 years old can apply to any of our four undergraduate degree programs with nothing more than the proof of a high school diploma (or equivalent) and proof of English proficiency.
For graduate programs, students must have completed a bachelor’s degree, as well. If you’re interested in applying, here’s how.
Timing is Everything
With college application deadlines, it’s all about your choices and your timing. Depending on where you want to attend college, it’s a good idea to review the institution’s specifications, requirements, and deadlines and be prepared in advance.
One way to ensure you don’t miss a deadline is by creating a spreadsheet of your school choices and inputting all the necessary deadlines. By creating this checklist, you will prevent missing your opportunity for acceptance.