Parents and students must be aware of each college's application deadline policy. In general, colleges operate on a "regular," "early" or "rolling" decisions basis (clarified below). More detailed information on procedures will be given to students in the fall of their senior year.
Regular decision means that a college has a fixed deadline for applications, for example, January 1, 15, or February 1 or March 1. Students are encouraged to complete their applications as early in the fall as possible. The college receives applications and school reports for students prior to the deadline and creates a file for each applicant. Decisions are made after the application deadline.
Early decision is a binding contract that a student enters into with a particular college stating that if the college accepts the student, the student will definitely attend. Early decision deadlines are usually November 1 or November 15 of senior year and students are notified by mid-December. As this is a contract, early decision applications must usually be signed by the student, parent/guardian and counselor.
A student should apply early decision if he/she fulfills the following two criteria: (1) the early decision school is truly the student's first choice; and (2) the student is the best candidate he/she will be by the application deadline (transcripts will only include grades through the end of junior year).
Counselors will always advise a student about this. A student who applies early decision may be accepted, denied admission or deferred to the regular admission applicant pool. In case of deferral, the early decision contract no longer applies.
Early action is also sometimes called Early Notification or Non-Binding Early Decision. The entire process is identical to Early Decision except that no contract to attend is involved. A student accepted under early action may still apply to other schools and attend whichever he/she chooses.
Restrictive Early Action (also called Single Choice Early Action)
Some schools to offer this unique early option, which is a variation of Early Action and Early Decision. Students applying to a school with this early policy cannot apply to another school early (either Early Action or Early Decision). However, it is not a binding contract if they are admitted to the school. That is, a student will find out from this school if they have been admitted early, but they do not have to commit to that school until May 1st.
In turn, students are then allowed to apply to other schools regular decision if they so desire. As with any early plan, students and parents should consult each college or university to inquire about their policies.
Many private and public colleges and universities operate under a rolling admission policy. Rolling admission means that the student may apply any time before the deadline and each application is reviewed as it is received. It is clearly to the student’s advantage to apply to rolling admission schools as early in the senior year as possible. Certain state university systems (e.g., the University of California schools) have deadlines as early November 1 through November 30. Students are generally notified 4-8 weeks after the application is received. Sometimes a student may be deferred until the school can receive additional information such as mid-year senior grades or additional College Board or ACT scores.
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