Decoding decision deadlines for college admissions is a little like walking into an advanced Zumba class for the first time. It feels like everybody else knows the steps and you’re the only one who’s lost.
Trust me, you’re not alone, most everyone is confused. Here is a primer on deciphering the abbreviations and understanding the restrictions of admissions deadlines:
Early admissions programs
Applying “early” has its benefits; students who apply early, in one of the following programs – beginning as early as Oct. 15 – are notified earlier, in December, January and early February. That perk may not seem so important right now but as friends receive their acceptance letters and some even make decisions in December and January, April will seem very far away.
Within Early Admissions there are several choices:
Early Decision: Students applying ED are making a definitive choice. They are committing that if they are accepted to the school (not all colleges offer ED), they will attend. Applying ED is rumored to give a student a boost of the equivalent of as much as 100 points on their SAT scores. Colleges love students who apply ED because they can count on them attending, and they help frame the composition of their class.
Deadlines for ED are typically Nov. 1 and students are notified before Christmas. Students can complete applications for other colleges, but if they are accepted to the ED school they must withdraw them.
Early Decision II: There are a handful of colleges that now offer an Early Decision II plan. ED II is the same as ED but with later deadlines, usually around Jan. 1, the same as most Regular Decision deadlines. However, students applying ED II are notified in early February and don’t have to wait until April. Many students use ED II if they are rejected from their first choice, where they applied ED.
Early Action: This is a non-binding commitment with November deadlines and a December or January notification, but students aren’t required to make a commitment until May 1. Except for the few colleges with special programs, students can submit an Early Action application to as many schools as they like. Not all colleges offer this program.
Single Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action: If it weren’t confusing enough, some colleges (Georgetown, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Boston College and Tulane) now offer another Early Action option. Read the admissions material carefully because some of the programs are very restrictive about where else applicants can apply.