Early Applications: Decoding the Deadlines

There are five main types of deadlines in college admissions: Early Decision, Restrictive Early Action (REA), Priority, Early Action, and Regular Decision. Early Decision is a binding admission offer, meaning if someone applies early decision to a particular college, he or she must commit to attend that school if accepted. This is a good option for students who are absolutely certain they know exactly which college they want attend. Early Decision applicants can also apply to any other non-binding Early Action colleges. If accepted under the Early Decision program, a student must withdraw any other applications to other colleges that have been made under non-binding application programs. Essentially this means that student loses the opportunity to compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges. Restrictive Early Action is another option similar to Early Decision and also allows students to apply non-binding Early Action Programs at other schools. The difference is that if accepted, students are able to defer commitment to that school until May 1, thus allowing students to compare financial aid offers. Restrictive Early Action is generally less common than Early Decision programs, but is occasionally found at some highly selective institutions. As opposed to Restrictive Early Action, Early Action deadlines, sometimes known as Priority Deadlines, are common among public and private universities. These deadlines are helpful for students who are applying for financial aid. Early Action applicants generally enjoy a higher rate of acceptance than regular decision candidates. Most schools that have an Early Action or Priority Deadline only consider early candidates for academic merit scholarships. Most Priority Deadlines are nonbinding, so a student can apply early without the commitment and financial binds faced by Early Decision applicants. The Regular Decision deadline is the absolute application deadline and the final round of acceptances. The main benefit to applying Regular Decision is that it allows for a student to finish their application later in the year, and occasionally it can be an applicant’s only viable option when a school offers only Early Decision and no additional Early deadline option.

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