Which College Application Method Is Best For You?

As the college application season heats up, there are things you should know and be aware of when applying to Colleges…

Colleges generally offer prospective students a variety of ways to submit their applications. After you’ve narrowed down your choices, check the admissions policy and deadline for each school on your college list. Understanding how these policies work will guide your application process and help you with your college application timelines.

Submit strategically, and early if possible. This gives you the best chance for admission and the most opportunities for getting scholarships and financial aid. Worst-case scenario, if you don’t get into the school of your choice, you’ll know early enough to still be able to implement a back-up plan, such as a school with rolling admissions.

The following are the most common methods schools offer in their application process:

Non-binding Agreements

Regular Decision – also referred to as Regular Admission, is the normal process by which many high school seniors choose to apply to college. The application is due by a certain deadline, and you receive a decision by a certain deadline. There are no restrictions to how many schools you can apply to, and you are not bound to attend a specific school just because they accepted you first. This option gives you more flexibility and time to get your application together, and to get grades and test scores up.

Rolling Admission – colleges review applications as they are submitted and render their decisions throughout a given admissions window.

Early Action (EA) – is similar to Early Decision, but is not binding like Early Decision. Students apply early and receive a decision well in advance of a college’s regular response time. This is a best of both worlds scenario, because if you’re accepted you have the choice of committing immediately, or waiting until the school’s deadline sometime in the spring. This gives you time to compare all of your offers before having to make a final binding decision.

Restrictive Early Action (REA) – students apply to a preferred college and receive a decision early. This process should be used when you are absolutely confident in your first choice school. However, you may be restricted from applying Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action to other schools. REA students usually have to the spring to respond to their admission offer, which gives them time to compare any other financial aid offers from other schools.


Binding Agreements

Early Decision (ED)be very careful with this one. This is for students who are absolutely, positively certain they want to go to a particular school. This option shows the college how serious you are about going to their school. Early Decision is very restrictive, and if admitted you are contractually bound to attend that school. In this scenario you are only allowed to apply to one college for Early Decision. You are also allowed to apply to other schools but only as Regular Decision. However, once you are accepted by your Early Decision school you are expected to withdraw your applications from the other schools. Again, applying Early Decision is contractually binding. The downside to Early Decision is if you get in and the financial package isn’t exactly what you expected, you may have to take out additional loans or find more scholarships in order to afford that school. Therefore, if finances are an issue, we highly suggest you thoroughly review the details of the ED application before committing.


*As you do your college search, do not assume all schools have the same application deadlines. Keep track of each school’s deadline for applications and financial aid so you don’t miss any opportunities.

If you would like to discuss this further, we’d be happy to help you connect the DOTS. Please reach out to us below:

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Remember, initial consultations are always complimentary.

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