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Timing Is Everything: Maximizing Your College Application Strategy


Are you ready to embark on the exciting journey of college admissions? If so, you'll quickly encounter the bewildering array of application deadlines. Fear not! This guide will shed light on the three main types of deadlines—Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision—helping you strategize your approach to maximize your chances of getting into your dream school.





Understanding the Deadlines:


1. Early Decision (ED): Early Decision is a binding application deadline, typically falling around November 1st. If you apply through ED and get accepted, you must attend that college, effectively committing to it. It's ideal if you're absolutely certain about your first-choice school. Some schools have an ED1 and ED2 deadline - what is this all about? You can apply to one school during the first ED deadline this fall, and if you are not accepted, you could apply to your second choice school ED2 (deadlines fall later in the winter). ED2 carries the same requirements as ED1; you must enroll at that school, withdraw any outstanding applications, and decline any acceptances you have received. Bottomline - you can only have ONE Early Decision application outstanding at any given time.


Consider ED if you've done thorough research and have a clear top-choice school. If you are accepted to a school ED, you MUST withdraw all of your other applications and make your deposit to secure your spot immediately. Remember, Early Decision is binding, so be sure you can afford the college and are confident it's the right fit.


2. Early Action (EA): Early Action is also an early deadline, usually around November 1st, but it's non-binding. NOTE: Some popular state schools have 10/15 EA deadlines, including UNC-Chapel Hill, UGA, Auburn, South Carolina, and Clemson If you apply EA you'll hear back sooner and can apply to multiple EA schools. It's a great choice if you want to apply early, but keep your options open. Choose EA if you're excited about a particular school but want to apply to multiple colleges. EA can relieve some application stress and give you early feedback. Since EA is non-binding, you have until May 1 to make your final decision, so you will also be able to evaluate any merit or financial aid and factor that into your final decision.


3. Restrictive Early Action (REA): Restrictive Early Action is a practice used by a few top schools.


REA is a more restrictive early action admissions plan that is less committal than early decision. Students who apply this way can only apply to one REA school in the early round (with some exceptions) and cannot apply ED to any school. Students may be able to apply to other EA schools, generally allowed only at public universities (based on the individual schools' policy). Schools that use REA include Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Georgetown. Click HERE to learn more about REA, and make sure to check each school's REA restrictions on submitting other EA applications.


4. Regular Decision (RD): Regular Decision is the most common deadline, due in January. It gives you more time to prepare your application and is non-binding. RD allows you to compare offers and consider financial aid before making a decision. Use RD if you're not ready to commit to one school early or want to compare financial aid offers. It's also the best option if you need more time to improve your application, for example - if you are still taking standardized testing or need to show your grade trends with your first-semester senior year grades.


Navigating Multiple Deadlines:

Managing multiple application deadlines can be a challenge. Here's a strategy to stay organized:

  1. Create a Calendar: Make a calendar with all application deadlines, including supplementary materials like recommendation letters and test scores.

  2. Prioritize: Focus on the schools with earlier deadlines first. Be realistic about how many applications you can complete thoroughly.

  3. Use Templates: Draft a master application with common elements like your essay and extracurricular activities. Tailor it for each school.

  4. Request Materials Early: Ask for recommendation letters and transcripts well in advance. Don't wait until the last minute.

  5. Stay on Top of Test Scores: Ensure your standardized test scores are sent to each school promptly. Keep records of your scores.

  6. Seek Guidance: Connect with your high school's college counselor for advice and support.

  7. Proofread and Review: Double-check each application for errors, ensuring it reflects your best work.

  8. Submit Early: Aim to submit all applications a few days before the deadlines. Technical glitches can happen.

  9. Follow Up: Check your email regularly for notifications from colleges and follow their instructions promptly.

  10. Prepare for Interviews: If interviews are part of the process, be ready with thoughtful responses. Navigating college application deadlines can be overwhelming, but with careful planning and organization, you can make the process smoother. Choose the deadline that aligns with your goals and be proactive in managing multiple applications. Remember, regardless of the deadline, put your best foot forward in every application to increase your chances of securing a spot at your dream school. Good luck!

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