Early, rolling, regular: When should you apply?

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Our counselors answered:

Early, rolling, regular: When should you apply?

Melissa Kunes
Senior Director, Office of Student Aid Penn State University

Early, rolling, regular: When should you apply?

Here is my video response to the question.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Early, Rolling and Regular

Applying early, rolling or regular is not a matter of guesswork. Colleges are very clear about their expectations and deadlines. If students formulate and narrow down their college list by the summer before their junior year, and can establish clear favorites, they can decide if and how they should apply. I remember hearing a college admissions director saying that "applying early should be a decision, not a strategy." However, in this competitive environment, I do differ to some extent. Students need to look at their junior year transcripts, test scores and preferences, consulting a counselor when needed, to make sure his or her plan of attack makes sense. It's a very competitive world. They should always know the difference between early, rolling and regular and remember that many colleges offer Early Decision 1 and Early Decision 2 options. These can be very good choices for the right student.

Lee Bierer
President College Admissions Strategies

Early, rolling, regular: When should you apply?

If you’ve been a solid performer through junior year then applying early action, which notifies you early of your decision but does not require a commitment until May 1st, is a great option. Early Decision, which is binding, can help increase your chances and you’re notified early. But the downside is that you need to notify all other colleges before they make their decisions, so you don’t know if you would have had any other choices. Rolling deadlines are trickier than they sound because many colleges will say they accept applications through April but because they notify students as applications come in, it is not unusual for a school to fill its class by February.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

College that admit highest number of early decision applicants

Newsweek recently published the statistics on colleges that admit the highest number if applicants via their Early Decision program. Following is the list: Dickinson College, Bucknell Davidson, Barnard College, Colorado College, Bates, Carleton College, Hamilton College, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, Vassa, Williams, Northwestern, Middlebury, University of Pennsylvania Amherst, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Duke, Dartmouth

Michelle Aronoff
Guidance Counselor

You can never be too early

Early decision is a binding agreement, but even if you don't want to make that kind of commitment you should still apply as early as you can. Many colleges offer an Early Action option in which you don't have to commit yourself to the school, but you can still get your application reviewed early and receive an answer from admissions before they look at their regular admission candidates. In addition, some schools set earlier deadlines if you want scholarship consideration. These deadlines are usually sometime in November. Many students seem to think that if a college has rolling admissions there is no deadline and they can get the application in "whenever." When a school is rolling admissions they are reviewing applications as they are receiving them which means they are offering admission to other students before you have even gotten yours in. You want as little competition as possible when it comes to admissions so you should still get those is early! In fact, some schools with rolling admissions can fill their freshman class as early as February so don't wait! To be safe I would try and get all of your applications out by the end of November< regardless of the deadline.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Alphabet Soup

Early Decision is a restrictive application plan which represents a full commitment on your behalf. You should only apply ED if you are absolutely sure about your first choice school. Also, think about the fact that you will not be able to compare financial aid packages as you would be able to if applying regular decision. Restrictive Early Action (limited to one school with some exceptions), Early Action, Regular and Rolling Applications are non-restrictive application plans which means that you can apply anytime prior to the stated deadline. Colleges utilizing REA, EA and rolling admission usually send their decision fairly quickly. In each type of non-restictive application plan, the student is allowed until the official deposit day of May 1st to decide on his school.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

The sooner the better

I love rolling admissions. Submit your application and hear back usually within 4 weeks. How nice to have an offer in your hip pocket early in the process. I promise, the clouds will part, the sun will come out, life will be good! Early Action is another good option. It is non-binding and again, you'll know your status by the holidays. Another reason to apply EA relates to the rate of acceptance being higher at that time. Early Decision is binding and in my opinion, only for those who have known their whole life this is where they are meant to be. Teenagers are still exploring, changing their minds, subjective to new ideas; so to commit early in the game may not be to everyone's advantage. Plus, if financial aid is an issue, you've just lost an opportunity to compare offers. Regular admission gives you the most time to submit all of your materials. Deadlines tend to be around the February 1st timeframe. The pool will be largest at this time, so proceed accordingly.

Maureen Lawler
College Counselor Bishop Kelley High

There is no "best" deadline under which to apply.

Every student is different. Every college is different. I tell my students, "If you've come out of the womb wanting College X then apply early." Of course if early is early decision you need to be careful. If ED, you are going unless you receive insufficient financial aid. Early action - go for it. Always make sure you fit the profile for the early round. If you don't fit the profile then regular decision may be the way to go. Check to see what happens if denied early - are you rolled over to regular admission or denied outright. Do your homework and ask questions.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Apply Early

It is always wise to apply early. Early Action will not bind you to the university but will let you know by January if you were accepted. If you absolutely know where you want to go you can apply Early Decision, but that decision is binding. If you are accepted, you MUST attend that college. Even if a college does not have an Early Action date, the earlier you apply the better.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Early Applications Are Best—But You Don’t Have to Commit

When to apply is a tough question. Early decision is best if a student is firm in their choice and financial concerns are not an issue. But if there is any uncertainty then regular decision, early action, or rolling are all appropriate options. Indeed, unless a strong senior performance might turn the tide, the earlier one can apply the better. Such an approach garners valuable timely feedback about how the application is being viewed in this particular cycle. Too, there is nothing like having a “home” even if it is not the top choice. In general, early is better.