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When are College Applications Due

College applications deadlines will vary by school, but most are due in the fall of your senior year of high school (September through December). However, just because an application is due by a specific date doesn’t mean that students who apply should wait until the last minute. In fact, when you apply to schools, apply early if you can!

Application windows will vary, but most will open by August 1st and remain open typically through December into early January. Regular admissions decisions will come out around March or April for the next academic school year.

Types of College Admissions Deadlines

Generally, there are three  ways to apply to college. You can apply regularl(submit your application and wait for your decision). You can request an early decision (if accepted by early decision you must attend that school) or an early action (requested a decision earlier than normal but you are not required to accept the offer).

Some schools have a rolling admissions method. For rolling admissions a school will have a deadline to submit the application but will evaluate the applications upon receipt and make decisions throughout the admissions period until all the available spots have been filled. Over a quarter of schools are now using this type of selection process.

Rolling admissions is different than traditional admissions where a school will wait and accept all applications submitted by the deadline, then review them all at the same time. In this scenario, applying early is not an advantage if applying for a regular decision. Early applications are still recommended for early decision or early action admissions.

So what should you think about with each type of application:

Regular Decision Admissions

  • Submit your application by the deadline (or as early as possible if you are applying to a school with rolling admissions).

Early Decision Admissions

  • Submit your application ASAP since early decision spots could go fast and as the name implies decisions are made early (generally around November).
  • Keep in mind that if you are accepted, you are required to attend this school. So only apply to only one school with early decision.
  • If you are accepted, it’s best to notify the other schools you applied to, to let them know you have accepted an offer.

Early Action Admissions

  • Submit your application early to ensure you are within the early action consideration set before early action decision are made (typically December or January).
  • You are not required to attend if you are accepted. However, if you choose to accept an early action acceptance, you should notify the other schools to let them know you have accepted another school.

It’s important to tell schools you have applied to, that you have accepted another school’s offer to attend. This is because some student’s may not be accepted or rejected, but instead put on a waitlist.  The waitlist is a kind of limbo where students remain until a space opens up for them. If you end up on a waitlist, you have to wait for other students to deny their acceptance. Depending where you on the list, a spot may or may not open for you.

Preparing your College Application

Of course, to be able to send all your college applications on time, the best strategy is to be prepared.  High school seniors have a lot to do and think about senior year so anything that can be done beforehand will surely help ease the burden and stress.

During your junior year of high school make sure you take the SAT or ACT tests and are satisfied with the scores. Your test scores will play in a role in the decisions process for those schools that do look at test scores. Additionally, collect all the documents you need such as high school transcripts, recommendation letters, and any other documents that communicate your achievements.

Using the Common App to Apply to College

For students that intend to apply to many schools (say more than 10), using the Common App to apply can be extremely useful and time saving. This is a free service that collects all your information in one central location and allows you to use it for applying to multiple schools. While the service is easy to use and allows for applications to potentially be sent to lots of schools, application fees still apply and can add up, so be intentional where you send your applications to.

Certain income-eligible students may qualify for a college application fee waiver at some school. For example, if you were able to take the SAT for free because you qualified for a fee waiver, then there may be certain schools that will waive their application fees as well. Before you apply to a school, make sure to do some research on fee waivers if you think you could qualify. Those applications fees can add up quickly, and why not save the money if you can!

Writing your Essays

Essays are not only a necessary part of the college application process, but they might also just be the piece of your submission package that gets you the acceptance letter. Having your essays ready and optimized is a very important. Know that you will likely have to write a primary essay or personal statement, basically an essay about you. There may also be supplemental essays. You can sometimes look up the essay topics on the school’s website to help you know what you will have to write about.

Filling out the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

The FAFSA is not required as part of the college application process but it’s best to fill out this free form at the same time you are applying for schools. The information you provide on the FAFSA will be used to determine not only your federal student aid eligibility, but can also be used by your state and school to determine your financial aid award. Schools can use this form to help determine if they will want to offer any need-based aid, or may require you to complete the FAFSA to award you merit-based aid—you want to read your school’s financial aid policies! While completing your research, you may find out that your school requires additional financial aid applications, like the CSS Profile™.

When are Admissions Decisions are Made?

Depending on the type of application you submitted (regular decision deadline, early decision deadline or early action deadline) will determine when decisions are made. Expect regular admissions application decisions in spring – March, April or early May. Early decision applications should come around November and early action December into January. With applications typically beginning in August, we recommend you apply and complete your college applications as early as possible to ensure you have the greatest chances for acceptance.


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