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Using college admission deadlines to your advantage

What do the different admission deadlines mean and how do you decide which one works best for you? As we finalize your college list, we will be very strategic about using the deadlines to your advantage.

This year, Tulane University admitted two-thirds of students through early decision rounds—leaving only 106 spots for regular decision applicants in their freshman class. That’s a shocking statistic. Many colleges, including Brown (53%), are admitting half their classes in early admission rounds. Here’s what the different college admission deadlines mean.

What is rolling admission?

According to the Princeton Review, “Colleges with rolling admissions evaluate applications as they are received versus waiting to evaluate all applications after a hard deadline. Schools will continue to evaluate applications until they’ve filled all the slots for their incoming class.” In other words, once you apply to a school with rolling admission, you will be notified quickly if you are accepted.

Rolling admission schools accept applications as early as July and as late as April. If you want to take full advantage of rolling admission, submit your applications as early as possible. The pool of applicants is much less saturated early in the process than it is closer to the April deadlines.

Rolling admission can certainly be less stressful than the waiting periods associated with early and regular decision. However, because you’ll be submitting applications earlier through the rolling admission process, you need to make sure you have the requirements squared away early too. For example, you won’t be able to re-take standardized tests in the fall of senior year if you submit your application in the summer or early fall. You’ll need to be satisfied with your previous test scores to submit them with a rolling admission application. I recommend that every student apply to a rolling admission school. An early rejection gives us time to alter your college list.

A brief list of schools with rolling admission:

  • Penn State
  • University of Pittsburg
  • Michigan State
  • The University of Tulsa
  • Wheaton College
  • Iowa State
  • Arizona State
  • University of Missouri
  • Kansas State
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Alabama
Early Decision I and II

Applying early decision means that you can send your application early, and you’ll usually be competing in a smaller applicant pool. This means that, even in very competitive schools, your chances of acceptance are slightly higher. The main concern with early decision is that you want to be certain the school you’re applying to is the one you want to attend. ED is a binding contract—unless your financial aid package does not cover your need, you must withdraw your other applications and submit your enrollment deposit. Most will notify in mid-December, which avoids the stress of waiting all winter and spring for a decision.

A limited number of schools offer ED II. Instead of a November application deadline, the early decision II deadline is in early January. For students who are denied admission under ED I at their top choice, this is another opportunity to increase odds at schools on the top of their list. Early Decision II application pools are usually smaller, so your chances of acceptance are often higher than Early Decision I. The applicant pool can also be a bit less competitive.

Regular Decision

Regular decision deadlines often fall around February 1. If we’re going off recent data, the odds of acceptance at competitive schools—mostly private are lower in this final round. However, keep in mind that most public universities only use RD. The harsh reality of college admissions is not without its fair share of criticism, and some even advocate for banning early decision because it creates an unfair admission process for less privileged applicants. In March, New York legislation was introduced to bar public and private colleges from offering early decision. Private colleges are strongly against such a move.

Bottom Line

As your final college list develops and colleges release their admission deadlines, we will discuss the best approach for your family. Digging into the data for recent admitted classes will help us determine how to use these deadlines to your advantage. Managing deadlines also determines when you need to take your SAT/ACT and whether your 12th grade first semester grades support your application better than just using your junior year cumulative GPA.

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