Should You Apply to College Early?

Tyson Schritter

Students find many types of application options when researching colleges: early versus regular applications, single-choice early action, and rolling applications.

So what are the differences, and which one is the best for you?

Different Early Applications & Deadlines

The Early Application

Most schools offer the chance to apply early, with deadlines sitting between November 1st and November 15th. Decisions for these applications are usually issued by mid-December or January. However, there are three types of decisions that could affect you differently.

Type Can I apply to other colleges? Deadline to give a final answer? Pros Cons
Early Decision You may apply to only one early decision school – all others must be regular applications. Early December Great for students who have a favorite school Limited time to compare financial packages; decision is binding
Early Action Yes, you may apply to other colleges. May 1st Non-binding decision; can compare other financial aid packages Not all schools have Early Action applications.
Single-Choice Early Action You may apply to only one Single-Choice Early Action school – all others must be regular applications. May 1st Able to apply early to favorite college; can compare other financial aid packages Decision is binding; can apply to only one single-choice early action school

Regular vs. Rolling Application

Regular Applications

All schools have regular applications; through regular applications, you may apply to as many schools as you wish without any binding decisions or special caveats. The deadlines for regular applications to most schools are between January 1st and February 1st, with decisions given mid-March.

Financial aid packages are awarded at the time of the decision, allowing you to decide which school best fits your financial situation.

Rolling Applications

Typically, larger state-funded universities have rolling applications, meaning they evaluate applications as they come in. When you apply during rolling admissions, you can expect to get a decision within four to eight weeks after you apply. This gives you an advantage when comparing schools, and takes the application stress off your shoulders. It’s definitely better to get your application in as soon as possible, but rolling application deadlines extend as late as May 1st.

What These Differences Mean to You

Applying early has many advantages, but also many pitfalls. Knowing your shortlist of schools will help you understand what kind of application you would like to file, and which deadlines suit you best.

In order to compare financial aid packages from colleges, early action, and rolling applications are in your best interest. If you have your heart set on a particular school, feel comfortable applying during their early action or single-choice early action application period.

And of course, the earlier you complete your applications, the less stress you’ll face closer to decision time. Best of luck!

More Helpful Guides:

Freshmen through Senior Year High School Checklist

Why You Should Visit Your School Counselor (Early College Prep)

College Readiness Tests: PSAT/NMSQT® and PSAT™ 10 Guide

What to Pack for Freshmen Orientation (Includes More than the Essentials)

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