College Application Deadlines and How You Should Apply

While we recently passed the October 15 early deadline, the majority of early deadlines are still approaching, with November 1 being the most common deadline. It can be confusing to know which deadline to choose, but don't feel like you're in trouble if you haven't made your decision yet or are still figuring out your college list. Here's what you need to know!

Here are the main ways to apply:

Early Action: This option allows you to apply earlier (usually from mid-October to mid-November). It doesn't demonstrate interest as it's non-binding (though some colleges have restrictive early action which limits other schools you can apply to and forbids early decision). However, it does allow you to receive a decision earlier (usually by mid-December), which takes the stress off the process and can give you some acceptances early on.

Early Decision: This option is the best way to demonstrate your commitment to a school, and you usually hear back by mid-December. While this option can give you an admissions edge, you need to be absolutely sure that you'll be happy to attend if accepted. Also, if a school is a Reach (meaning that based on your stats it's a long shot for you to get in), then waiting for the Regular Decision deadline or Early Decision #2 (a later Early Decision option offered by some schools) will be a better choice as you can use the additional time to focus on increasing your Grade Point Average and bringing up your SAT/ACT scores.

Early Decision #2: More and more schools are offering a later Early Decision #2 option (usually with a deadline of January 1) which is great for students who couldn't decide early, needed extra time to strengthen their application, or got rejected from their Early Application schools.

Regular Decision: This is a non-binding option which usually has a deadline of January 1. Students usually receive a decision in April.

Rolling: Schools with this option may have a later Regular Decision deadline, but when you apply, you usually get a decision within a few weeks.

No matter when you get a decision, you have until May 1, the National Reply Date, to respond with your decision (unless it's Early Decision, in which case you have already decided).

Here are some Early Decision #1 and #2 deadlines for popular colleges:

School Early Decision #1 Early Decision #2
American University November 15 January 15
Boston University November 1 January 3
Bowdoin November 15 January 1
Brandeis November 1 January 1
Brown November 1 N/A
Colby November 15 January 1
Columbia November 1 N/A
Cornell November 1 N/A
Dartmouth November 1 N/A
Duke November 1 N/A
Emory November 1 January 1
Johns Hopkins November 1 N/A
New York University November 1 January 1
Northwestern November 1 N/A
Pomona November 1 January 1
Smith November 15 January 1
Tufts November 1 January 1
University of Chicago November 1 January 2
University of Pennsylvania November 1 N/A
Vanderbilt November 1 January 1
Villanova November 1 N/A
Wellesley November 1 January 1
Wesleyan November 15 January 1
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