Countdown to College: Application deadlines and decisions

Last week I shared information about two early admissions programs: Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED).

Early Action is where colleges have earlier deadlines (Oct. 15 – Dec. 1) and they notify students earlier (December – January) and students are not required to make a decision until May 1; after they’ve received all their offers.

Early Decision has a similar early deadline and colleges commit to notifying students by Christmas, but ED is binding which means that if a student chooses this program they are only allowed to apply to one school Early Decision.

I mentioned that part of the appeal, besides an earlier notification date, is that there is often a sizable jump in the acceptance rate for students who apply ED.

The one thing I discourage is when a student or a family member says “we’re applying ED, we just don’t know where.” It is much more important to identify why a college is a good fit, rather than try to game the system and limit your choices.

There are two other early admissions programs that are even more confusing, because they are so similar but have different names: Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) and Restricted Early Action (REA). Both of these plans have earlier deadlines – typically Nov. 1, they notify students earlier – typically by Christmas and they are not binding.

But the plans differ from traditional Early Action programs because they place restrictions on where else a student can apply Early Action and Early Decision.

The SCEA schools and their policies are as follows:

Harvard – ( Applicants may apply EA to any public college/university but may not apply EA or ED to any private institutions.

Princeton – ( Applicants may not apply to an early program at any other private college or university, but may apply early to any public institution as long as the decision is nonbinding.

Stanford – ( Applicants agree not to apply to any other private college/university under EA, REA, ED or Early Notification program.

Yale – ( Applicants may apply to any college’s non-binding rolling admission and any public institution, provided that admission is non-binding. Students may apply to another college’s Early Decision II binding program but only if the notification occurs after January 1.

Restricted Early Action: Georgetown University (, University of Notre Dame ( and Boston College ( all offer the REA program which states that applicants may not apply to a binding ED program but they do have the option of applying to other EA programs.

Rolling Admissions accepts applications on an ongoing basis (no hard deadlines) and they notify students on a rolling basis; i.e., the earlier you submit, the earlier you will hear back.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;