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Applying to College Early: What You Need to Know

Early application deadlines (Early Decision, Early Action, etc.) will be here before you know it. Here's what you should know.

Those “early application” deadlines—Early Decision, Early Action, etc.—will be here before you know it. And you don’t want to let them pass you by (at least not without learning more about them). Applying to college early is magical for a few reasons:

  • You wrap up your college search and get your admission decisions that much sooner, which means less time stressing your brains out.
  • You face a smaller applicant pool, which means you have a better chance of getting in.
  • You are demonstrating how excited and committed you are to attending the school, which is something admission counselors love to see—and might even consider in admission decisions.

Of course, there are pros and cons to applying to college early. But before we get in too deep, let's break down of the types of college deadlines students might encounter when applying for the upcoming fall semester.

Types of college application deadlines

Early Action

Non-binding; with Early Action, you submit your application around November and usually get your decision by December. You can still apply to other schools. Some schools also split these deadlines, with an "Early Action I" falling a few weeks before "Early Action II" (but still before Regular Decision deadlines).

Related: Early Decision, Early Action, Single Choice Early Action—What's the Right One for Me?

Single Choice Early Action

Non-binding but exclusive; this deadline functions much like the typical Early Action deadlines, except you can only apply to one school this way (hence “single choice”). Not many schools offer this option, but for those that do, it shows you’re that much more interested in attending the institution.

Early Decision

Binding; though Early Decision deadlines have a similar timeline to Early Action, it has one huge difference: by applying to a school Early Decision, you are agreeing to enroll if you are admitted. If accepted, you must contact the other colleges and withdraw those applications.

Related: Early Bird Gets the Worm? Early Decision vs. Early Action

Regular Decision

Non-binding; deadline for fall admission usually occurs in the preceding January or February, and students receive a decision by April.

Rolling admission

Non-binding; schools with rolling admission deadlines accept applications until the programs fill up, often as late as April and through the summer.

Related: What You Need to Know About Rolling Admission

If you know where you want to go to college and can get your applications done sooner rather than later, you can take advantage of early application deadlines—but only after learning more about them to figure out if it's the right choice for you. Now you have all the details you need to know, from the difference between Early Decision and Early Action deadlines to potential drawbacks to schools that accept lots of students via early deadlines. So take a look and get moving!

Still looking for schools? Find colleges to apply to using our College Search tool!

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