Applying to College: Which Application is Right for You?

By the time senior year rolls around, things can get pretty darn stressful.

Understatement.

They are stressful.

With college visits and standardized tests under your belt, you would think knowing how or when to apply to college would be the easy part. Unfortunately, higher education has metaphorically throat-punched us again with the array of college applications for us to choose. Early action, early decision, and rolling admissions are the main types, and some schools still only offer two out of three, and others only one. With that, it pays to truly know the differences and how to reap the benefits. I mean, who wants to accidentally get into a legally binding contract with a $75,000/year school.

Not I, my friend, not I.

Early Action: By applying Early Action, students receive the benefit of learning of the admission decisions early, sans binding contract. Additionally, students can apply Early Action to additional schools and deadlines are generally the same as Early Decision deadlines.

Note: There is a facet of Early Action entitled Single Choice Early Action. It’s all in the name: you apply using the Early Action process, but can only apply to one school Early Action, and you cannot apply to a school Early Decision.

Early Decision: This is probably something you want to get straight, Early Decisions= binding. If you have a bar-none, first choice college, applying Early Decision can be an excellent idea, since many colleges accept a higher percentage of Early Decision applicants.

Early Decision application deadlines are generally either the 1st or the 15th of November, and admissions decisions are usually sent out a month after. Make sure to check the college’s deadlines.

There are three admissions scenarios with an Early Decision application: you are accepted, rejected, or deferred. Getting deferred Early Decision means your application will be reviewed again in the Regular Decision application pool. From there, you can ultimately be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted. On the contrary, if you are accepted, you must contact every other school you applied to revoke your application. You wouldn’t want to take someone else’s spot, would you?

Rolling: Rolling admissions means that a college makes admissions decisions as they receive applications, and so you could hear back as early as four to six weeks from the time you apply.

Rolling applications generally begin on September 1st, and you should try to get your application in as close to this date as possible in order to acquire admission.

Note: Rolling admission shouldn’t be a backup for those who have real trouble making up their minds, get waitlisted at their favorite, or simply succumb to procrastination. Later applications make it increasingly difficult to gain admission.

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