Timelines for College Admissions
Ever heard of being in the right place at the right time? When it comes to college admissions, applying at the right time can increase your chances of getting accepted.
Early Action or Early Decision?
Both are similar names for the same thing, an accelerated college application process in which students usually complete their applications in November. In the majority of cases, students will then receive a decision from the college before the new year.
According to the admissions department at MIT, “If you feel strongly that MIT is right for you, you may want to consider applying to MIT “Early Action” in November of your senior year. If you have taken all the required standardized tests on or by the November test date and postmark all of the application materials by November 1, you may ask that we review your application and notify you of admission by mid-December. At that time we will either offer you admission, defer the decision until March, or (in rare cases) deny the application.”
MIT’s early program is non-binding; if admitted under Early Action, you may accept or decline the offer, and in either case you are not required to reply until May 3. They do not require a deposit to hold your place, and here’s the best part: “We are committed to taking no more than 30% of our total admitted freshman class under Early Action.”
Did you know? MIT’s Early Action program is available only to citizens and permanent residents of the United States.
Benefits of Early Action
- At many colleges, the acceptance rates are higher for early action than for regular admission.
- Students who are not accepted early are still considered for admission with the regular admission pool.
- Early action is not binding — students are free to apply to other colleges.
- Students can apply early to other colleges.
- Although students receive early notification of an acceptance, they do not need to make a decision until the usual May 1 deadline. This allows time to figure out financial aid.
- If accepted early at a college, the spring of a student’s senior year will be far less stressful.
- Even if accepted early, a student can choose to go to a different college with no penalty.
Early Decision vs. Early Action
While the rules vary by college, it is important to be aware of the differences between early decision and early action before sending in your applications.
Early decision plans are binding. You agree to attend the college if it accepts you and offers an adequate financial aid package. Although you can apply to only one college for early decision, you may apply to other colleges through the regular admissions process. If you’re accepted by your first-choice college early, you must withdraw all other applications. Usually, colleges insist on a nonrefundable deposit well before May 1.
Early action plans are similar but are not binding, unlike early decision. If you’ve been accepted, you can choose to commit to the college immediately, or wait until the spring. Under these plans, you may also apply early action to other colleges. Usually, you have until the late spring to let the college know your decision.
Single-choice early action is a new option offered by a few colleges. This plan works the same way as other early action plans, but candidates may not apply early (either early action or early decision) to any other school. You can still apply to other schools and are not required to give your final answer of acceptance until the regular decision deadline.
|Application Type||Binding||Can Apply Early to Other Colleges||Can Apply to Other Colleges Under Regular Admissions|
|Single-Choice Early Action||No||No||Yes|
“The most attractive aspect of early admissions programs is that colleges and universities tend to admit a significantly higher percentage of the early applicant pool than they do of the normal applicant pool – in other words, there is the possibility that your chances of being accepted as an early admissions candidate are better than they would be as a regular applicant. The most selective colleges currently admit 25% to 50% of their total students from the early admissions pool. In recent years, as many as 40% of freshmen at Ivy League schools have been early admissions applicants.”
Single-Choice Early Action:
Imagine that you are 100% sure you want to study at University X and nowhere else. One way to distinguish yourself in the eyes of the college is through single-choice early action which has the benefits of early decision with the caveat that you are not allowed to apply to other colleges early. Schools love it because it allows them to predict its application yield, which is the percentage of admitted students who actually enroll in college.
Why is yield so important? “The admissions office needs to estimate the yield in order to figure out how many students to accept. If they guess the yield wrong, they will end up with an incoming class that is either too big or too small. The yield varies widely from school to school. A prestigious university like Harvard may yield around 80% of the students they accept, while some of the less competitive colleges and state universities may yield closer to 25%.”
While several institutions of higher learning use a rolling admission policy, very few of the most exclusive colleges use it. Rolling admissions gives you a large window of time during which you can apply to a university or college. The process usually opens in the fall and may continue through the summer.
However, unlike a regular admission process with a firm application deadline, “rolling admission applicants are often notified of their acceptance or rejection within a few weeks of applying. A college with rolling admission typically accepts applications for as long as spaces are available. Applicants should realize, however, that it is a mistake to view rolling admission as an excuse to put off applying to college. In many cases, applying early improves an applicant’s chance of being accepted. Also, while there may be no application deadline, there typically are deadlines for scholarships, financial aid and housing. A late application may make it impossible to get any decent financial aid.”
Benefits of Rolling Admissions:
- Applicants may receive a decision long before the March or April notification period of regular admission colleges
- Applying early can improve an applicant’s chance of being accepted
- Applying early may improve an applicant’s chance of receiving a scholarship
- Applying early may give an applicant first choice for housing
- Some rolling admission colleges still give students until May 1 to make a decision; this allows an applicant to weigh all options
- A student who applies early and is rejected may still have time to apply to other colleges with winter deadlines
- Rolling admission colleges may remain an option if a student gets rejected elsewhere; some rolling admission colleges accept applications right up until classes start
Some sample rolling admission policies:
- University of Minnesota: Application review begins September 15; priority is given to applications received by December 15; after December 15th, applications are considered on a space-available basis.
- Rutgers University: December 1st priority deadline; February 28th notification date; May 1st decision deadline; after December 1st, applications are considered on a space-available basis.
- Indiana University: November 1st priority date for merit-based scholarships; February 1st priority date for admission; April 1st deadline to be considered for admission.
- Penn State: November 30 priority date for admission
- University of Pittsburgh: Applications accepted until class is full; January 15th deadline for scholarships
In theory, an institution with a policy of open admissions should allow any student with a high school diploma or GED to attend. Thus, open admissions are supposed to give any student who has finished high school the chance to pursue a college degree.
“The reality isn’t quite so simple. At four-year colleges, students are sometimes guaranteed admission if they meet minimum test score and GPA requirements. In these situations, a four-year college often collaborates with a community college so that students who don’t meet the minimum requirements can still begin their college educations. Also, guaranteed admission to an open admission college doesn’t always mean that a student can take courses. If a college has too many applicants, students may find themselves waitlisted for some if not all courses. This scenario has proven all too common in the current economic climate.”
Did you know? The open admissions movement started in the 1950s and had ties to the civil rights movement. California and New York were pioneers in making college accessible to all high school graduates.
Examples of Open Admissions include most community colleges and a number of four-year colleges and universities. However, the policy has been criticized because graduation rates tend to be low, college standards are decreased, and more students seem to need remedial courses.
How to Choose:
“Early admissions programs can be very advantageous to college applicants, depending on their profile and situation. A high school student who is sure of what school they want to go to, and whose junior year grades, extracurricular activities, etc., are strong enough to secure admission, can benefit from early admissions. However, we do not encourage clients with any questions at all about their college preferences to seek a binding early decision from any school, regardless of how much better the statistical chances of acceptance may be under an early decision program. Keep in mind that you’re not just being asked to indicate a school preference; you’re being asked to forego all other options and to commit yourself to spending four years (and tens of thousands of dollars) at a particular institution. That’s a big decision for anyone to make. It should only be undertaken with the best possible information and advice, and without undue deadline pressure.”