Understanding the 4 Different Types of College Deadlines

Deadline is the last date or due date for your application to be considered. In this article we have discussed about the 4 types of college deadlines you need to understand.

Updated by TCM Staff on 8th May 2020

Each college will have admissions pages on the website with exact dates various things are due. Let’s understand the meaning of the application deadline. It is the last date or due date for your application to be considered. Do not submit your application late, although some colleges maybe a little flexible, you can’t rely on it. Only after submission of all your documents, your application is considered complete and that also includes all the tests unless otherwise indicated on the website.

The following are 4 types of college deadlines you need to know about. The timing of your application may make all the difference between acceptance and rejection.


Early Decision Deadline


In this college deadline, you must send your application in the month of November to get a decision the following month i.e. December. Early decision is a great option because of two reasons:

  • First, you have better chances of making it to your college of choice if you apply early and you face lesser competition with few applicants fighting for the available seats. 

  • And second, it puts you at ease about college. You can focus on your board exams for the next three months.

However, there’s a catch. Early decision is a binding contract. It means that if the college offers you an admission, you cannot refuse it. You would also have to withdraw your application from all the other colleges that you have applied to in the past. Also, as you can apply to only one school under early decision, make that choice very carefully after talking it over with your counselor. 

Advantages: Applying ED shows the college that you are fully committed to them and it helps you put your best feet forward. It is also a way to get with the college application process a little bit earlier. 

Disadvantages: You are probably going to compete with other incredible applicants, and, if you are not stellar, you’ll pale in comparison to the admissions committee. The early decision requires you to be absolutely sure that the school you’re applying to is your top choice because there is no room for regrets.


Early Action Deadline


Unlike early decision, an early action is a non-binding contract. In early action, you have to send your application in November and you receive an admission decision by December. In some cases, your application may be deferred to a regular decision date, especially if the early application pool is too competitive. In that case, it is advisable to contact the admissions office and ask if you could provide any additional documents to strengthen your application. Do this only if you are very interested in that particular college.

Many colleges have a restrictive clause attached to the early action. For example, Harvard restricts you to apply for an early action anywhere else if you have applied for an early action decision with them. The same goes for Stanford, Princeton, and Yale. Early action deadline is also known as Single Choice Early Action.

Advantages: Early action allows you to get your college apps out of the way by the first semester of your senior year, which is often a stressful time. You also have early notification of the college’s decision which gives you more time to decide which college is best for you and take into account financial aid, etc. You can apply to more than one college under early action and thus expand your opportunities.

Disadvantages: You must have a very good overall academic record to apply for early action. If you feel like further work in your senior year could be beneficial to your application, apply Regular Decision.

Regular Decision Deadline


These are the most commonly available deadlines. Like early action, the regular decision is also non-binding. It means you can apply to and get accepted by many colleges at the same time. For fall admissions, regular decision applications must reach colleges by January or February of that year to get an admission decision by the next month. If you are a price-sensitive applicant (relying on financial aid), it is advisable to apply under regular decision.

Advantages: Applying regular decisions will give you more time to polish and perfect your application, as well as take any pending standardized tests on time. Furthermore, you’ll be able to be done with most of your applications in one go. If you manage your time well, you’ll be done and only have to wait a couple of months for the decisions. 

Disadvantages: You have to wait 3+ months to get a decision, whereas when you apply Early Action you only (usually) have to wait only 1–2 months.


Rolling Admission Deadline


Colleges that provide rolling admission decisions are made as and when the application reaches the admissions office and also offers a large application window to students. The applications in such colleges are processed as they are received, available seats can fill up quickly. This means that if you want to apply for rolling admission, you need to apply early on. Colleges that offer rolling admissions also have certain deadlines. For example, Penn State offers rolling admissions but has a priority deadline of November 30.

Advantages: You have enough time to complete your application. You know the decision quickly if you turn in your application quickly.

Disadvantages: Most colleges don’t have the choice of rolling admission and if you turn the decision in later, it could harm your chances of admission.


Not all colleges offer all deadlines so keep track of individual ones by visiting their websites. When armed with the correct information you will know exactly when to apply and deadlines cease to be deadlines. Be prepared and prompt. Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Many of these pros and cons expand depending on the college you’re applying to. Also, many colleges have specific deadlines for scholarship consideration or early interview priority. Make sure you stay on top of those dates and requirements.

Good Luck!

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