The road to college is exciting but challenging to navigate. It entails months of preparation and planning and students often go through task after task as they choose among schools, write application essays, and ensure that the application process is completed on time. For senior students applying for enrollment this fall, the deadlines for college application dictate their timelines.
When it comes to college applications, high school graduates do not simply transition to college as they need to apply to their chosen schools, submit all the necessary requirements, and wait for acceptance. Trends among first-year college applicants through March 2022 showed that the number of applicants increased by 14.4%. Compared to the 2019-2020 application period, the total application volume jumped to 21.3%, while the number of applications submitted averaged six per applicant (Freeman et. al., 2022).
This guide on college application deadlines aims to help incoming college freshmen keep track of important dates in college applications for the coming admissions period. Among the topics that will be discussed are the four major deadlines across schools and application platforms that students can use. Key deadlines for financing aid, standardized tests, and scholarship applications are also included to help students map out their timelines more efficiently.
The bulk of the college application process takes place during a student’s senior year—the summer before senior year to be exact. After all, to successfully complete the college application process, it is important to work on college application requirements before they are due. One may start by taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) in the junior year, in this way, the student still has time to retake should there be a need to improve scores. Universities use test scores to gauge whether a student possesses the aptitude to succeed in their school, so it is important to have high scores on standardized tests.
However, the preparation for college applications often starts in junior year. At this time, students make preliminary lists of colleges they want to apply to. This takes time because determining how many colleges one should apply to is also challenging for most students. Based on Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), highly selective schools with admission rates below 50% recorded the highest growth in application volume at 26% in 2019-2020. This growth in application volume can be attributed to the fact that students with more modest academic credentials are shifting from two-year to four-year colleges (Howell et al., 2022).
By weighing their options early, students can have time to check course offerings thoroughly. In addition, this gives them time to explore the types of grants, scholarships, and financial aid being offered by their prospective schools. This also helps reduce the level of stress and pressure associated with college applications once students are bombarded by deadlines, tests, and submissions of personal essays.
Source: The College Board
Emily Kroshus of the Center for Child Health, Behavior, and Development in Seattle led a study on the stress encountered by senior students during the transition to college. Published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, the study by Kroshus and her colleagues entitled “Stress, self-compassion, and well-being during the transition to college” found that “on average, students experienced moderate increases in depression and anxiety from the summer before college through the spring, with wide variability across students and no clear patterning by demographic groups.”
Focusing on the difficulties faced by students during college application, the study identified “chronic stressors as strong predictors of more negative outcomes, and that people most likely to experience chronic stressors over the school year included women, people who identify as sexual minorities and first-generation students.”
With these in mind, it is no longer surprising for students to get overwhelmed by the wide range of options and application requirements. However, with the right preparation and information, students can effectively manage their college application timeline.
In applying for college, there are four important deadlines that every college applicant should be aware of—early action deadline, early decision deadline, regular decision deadline, and rolling admission deadline. Each type of admission window offers advantages and disadvantages, depending on the circumstances of the applicant.
Deadline of application: November 2022
Admission decision: December 2022
For this type of admission window, the student applies early and receives a decision well in advance of the regular response date. The Early Action deadline does not restrict the student from applying to other institutions, thus the student is not bound to attend even if accepted. The applicant also has until May 1 to confirm enrollment.
Early Action and Early Decision deadlines typically fall around the same time so it is rare for colleges to offer these two admission windows at the same time. Early Action gives the applicant extra time to compare offerings, including the financial packages of several schools. One disadvantage of Early Action is that since all submissions are evaluated after the deadline, each applicant will be competing with a larger applicant pool. Consequently, the chances of getting deferred are higher.
Higher education schools such as Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton have the Single-Choice Early Action instead of Early Action. The main difference between the two is that in the former, the student is only allowed to apply to only one of these schools, and is not allowed to make other Early Action submissions.
Deadline of application: November 2022
Admission decision: December 2022
As the name implies, this type of application allows students to decide early on and make a commitment to a first-choice institution. Once admitted, the student will enroll and is obliged to withdraw other applications. Unlike the Early Action application, which is non-binding, Early Decision is binding. Under the Early Decision deadline, the student may not apply to more than one college. If the applicant fails to get in, submission of another application is allowed only after a year. On the other hand, if the application gets deferred, the student is free to apply to other schools while waiting for the final decision of the admissions team.
As a rule, students must only apply for early decision if they are sure they have found the best fit school. Also, students who are strong candidates for admission, and can afford the tuition, may consider applying under Early Decision. This entails a lot of research and comparison. As such, extra preparation is necessary.
Early Decision will benefit those who have already compared schools and their offerings. It spares the student from the uncertainty of waiting for acceptance from several schools. The early application also gives the student the chance to have an acceptance slip while still in senior year. However, since this admission window is binding, the student will not have the opportunity to compare financial packages. Another disadvantage to this is that options become limited and the student risks missing the admission deadlines of other prospective schools while waiting for the award package.
Deadline of application: January/February 2023
Admission decision: March/April 2023
Regular Decision is perhaps the most popular and the simplest among the application types as it does not have to be submitted early. This gives students more time to request recommendation letters and to improve their essays. For this type of college admission deadline, the student sends in a college application by January or February and receives a decision by March or April. Although the decision is released earlier than May, the student can still evaluate options and make a commitment until the May deadline.
Most applicants choose to apply for college under Regular Decision as it gives them more time as well as flexibility. As a non-binding application, students may submit applications to as many schools. They also have more time to work on applications and improve their grades and test scores. For undecided students, this gives them more time to identify their best fit school.
Under Regular Decision, all applications are evaluated only after the deadline. This increases competition and also limits the time of evaluators to thoroughly review submissions, especially when there are a lot of applicants competing for admission. It can also be a source of stress as students wait for decisions until Spring.
Deadline of application: Varies per school
Admission decision: Usually within four to six weeks
Rolling Admission is non-binding and evaluates applications once submitted. There are no hard deadlines, unlike in other admission windows where applications are only evaluated after the deadline. Colleges that implement rolling admission have several application windows in any given year. The concerned institutions render decisions throughout the admission cycle. Similar to Regular Decision and Early Action, there is no commitment required from the student. Schools will evaluate applications and render decisions until they have filled all the slots for their incoming class.
One major advantage of rolling admission is the quick process—the earlier the student sends an application, the earlier a decision is awarded. Also, when a student submits an application ahead of other applicants, it can be a lot less competitive. This type of application deadline also provides flexibility and reduces college application-related stress.
As a strategy, Rolling Admission applications should be submitted first before submitting applications under Regular Decision deadline. In this way, the chances of being accepted will be much higher as there are more spaces early on. Schools with Rolling Admissions accept applications from as early as July until April and allow the student to decide on whether to attend until the designated deadline.
Public Ivy League schools are a group of universities and colleges in the United States that are known to be academically rigorous, selective, and prestigious. They are the best public undergraduate colleges and universities and are coined as the “Public Ivys” by Richard Moll. Today, Public Ivys are an attractive choice for college students as they are known for academic as well as athletic excellence. For students eyeing these schools, it is important to note the following college application deadlines for Fall 2023:
|Early Action||Early Decision||Regular Decision|
|University of California - Berkeley||N/A||N/A||November 30|
|University of California - Los Angeles||N/A||N/A||November 30|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||November 1||N/A||February 1|
|University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill||October 15||N/A||January 15|
|University of Virginia||November 1||November 1||January 5|
|College of William and Mary||N/A||N/A||November 1/January 2|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||October 10/November 1||N/A||January 4|
|University of California - San Diego||N/A||N/A||November 30|
Ivy League institutions in the U.S. are known as a group of long-established universities and colleges having high academic and social prestige. As such, it is the dream of every student to get accepted into these institutions for their post-secondary education. However, these schools are also known for having low acceptance rates and high tuition fees. Here are the key dates to remember to ensure that you meet all deadlines for college application for these schools:
|Early Action||Early Decision||Regular Decision|
|Harvard University||November 1||N/A||January 1|
|Yale University||November 1||N/A||January 2|
|Princeton University||November 1||N/A||January 1|
|Columbia University||N/A||November 1||January 1|
|Brown University||N/A||November 1||January 5|
|Cornell University||N/A||November 1||January 2|
|Dartmouth University||N/A||November 1||January 3|
|University of Pennsylvania||N/A||November 1||January 5|
College application may seem overwhelming, but there are college application platforms that can help students apply to multiple schools with a single application. These websites provide standardized applications where the applicant only needs to fill out one form and submit it to each college. While some schools do not require SAT or ACT scores, applicants still opt to submit test scores through these application platforms. In 2021-22, student test score reporting climbed to 48% from 43% the previous year. Although these platforms take care of sending applications to multiple schools, the applicant still needs to pay the application fee of each school and comply with additional requirements.
Serving over 1,000 institutions, The Common Application is the most widely-used college application platform today. This non-profit membership organization provides students with access to multiple colleges and universities. The student applicant just needs to create an account and make a profile, which will be sent to multiple schools. Serving over one million applicants each year, the Common App is focused on promoting access, equity, and integrity.
The Coalition for College, which aims to simplify the application process is a diverse group of more than 150 colleges and universities across the U.S. that employs advanced technology in the college application process. The Coalition for College application portal offers tools and resources to help students, specifically those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to have the tools and resources they need to apply for college.
This is important, particularly because promoting enrollment in selective colleges among low-income students is a major concern in the college application process. The College Board sought to reduce barriers in a national-level informational experiment through targeted campaigns using brochures and emails. Published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the results of the experiment entitled “A national-level informational experiment to promote enrollment in selective colleges” conducted by Gurantz et. al. (2020) indicated that interventions led to no change.
The researchers concluded, “getting lower-income students to enroll in more selective institutions is a challenge due to the multiple steps involved, many of which involve decisions outside of the students’ control. Although interventions might induce students to incorporate new information and alter their application patterns, they must then rely on colleges with often low admission rates, changing their acceptance decisions and providing enough financial aid and other supports to convince these students they will be successful in this new environment, which may be particularly important for low-income students.”
Accepted by almost 70 historically black colleges and universities, (HBCUs), the Common Black College Application is another type of college application platform established to provide resources to incoming college freshmen. The Common Black College Application has a fixed college application fee, which is significantly lower than the typical fees charged by other schools and universities. At the core of its mission is to break the cycle of poverty and provide equal opportunity to all.
Unlike other college application platforms, the Universal College Application is a for-profit organization. To date, there are only two institutions that have an existing partnership with this group, the University of Charleston (WV) and the University of the Commonwealth Global. It is important to note that these two schools are also accessible through the Common Application platform.
Source: The Common App, 2022
The college application deadline is just one of the things that you need to be aware of as you apply for post-secondary education. Applying for college also entails taking standardized tests, and applying for financial aid and scholarships.
Aside from finalizing application forms, students need to submit standardized test scores. In the past two years, however, schools have initiated test-blind and test-optional admissions. While this practice only began during the pandemic, the overall sentiment post-COVID is that schools should discontinue requiring SAT and ACT scores from college applicants (Jaschick, 2022). However, 39% of Americans still consider standardized test scores as a major factor that should be considered in college applications.
To ensure that colleges and universities receive your scores in time, you must plan to take SAT or ACT early. This is because most students end up taking these exams more than once. If you are looking at sending a rolling admission application in early fall, aim to take the test in October of your junior year. This will give you the option to retake it in the spring in case you need to take the exam again.
It is best to fill out and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) early. The FAFSA becomes available on October 1 each year, and since some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it is good to submit your application as early as possible. Take note that there are three FAFSA deadlines: the Federal deadline, the State deadline, and the college deadline. When applying for financial aid, it is best to keep tabs on these deadlines. You may also check out this guide to FAFSA application for more details.
In applying for college, you also have to take note of scholarship application deadlines. Especially for incoming college students that need financial support, this is a good option as scholarships do not need to be repaid and are awarded to students based on financial need or particular merits and academic achievements. Interested students need to submit scholarship applications separately from financial aid applications. An excellent place to start is by checking the Federal Student Aid guide.
It is ideal to go on campus tours before sending your applications, which should be within the spring or summer of junior year or fall of senior year. In doing this, you can thoughtfully consider the things you have discovered about each campus and take them into account as you choose a school. Most schools only designate certain dates for incoming freshmen, so take note of these dates and plan accordingly.
While senior students approach college applications differently, one thing they all have in common is the desire to pursue post-secondary education. Every step in the college application process brings them closer to unique paths that they can continue to explore as they pursue their dreams.
The first step, however, is to go through the college application process. To avoid unnecessary stress, plan ahead and prepare. It pays to have a timeline ready in the junior year to avoid rushed essays and tests. Research and seek the guidance of school counselors on whether to apply under Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, or Rolling Admission. Ask around and make it a point to get the feedback of those who have already gone through the college application process. Make sure you cover everything in your plan, including financing your college fees.
Dealing with deadlines for college application may seem daunting but with the right preparation, the student applicant will have confidence in every decision.