How Do College Application Deadlines Work?

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Are you an aspiring college student thinking of how to apply to college? If yes, you’ll often hear people talk about college application deadlines. What is it? Why should there be a deadline for your application procedure? Here’s an article that explains it all. We’ll also explain the different types of college application deadlines to help you answer the question, “how do application deadlines work?”, while reviewing how it can affect your admission chances. Let’s go!

Types of College Application DeadlinesTypes of College Application Deadlines

One of the first questions most students ask when beginning their college application process is, “When should applications for college be submitted?” While this may sound like an easy question, it’s not. Why? Because there are quite a number of factors you should think about:

  • Should I apply for a regular or early decision?
  • What’s the difference between both types of college application deadlines?
  • When should I expect to take a standardized test?
  • When’s the perfect time to submit my college application?
  • How do college application deadlines work?

It all begins with understanding the different college application types, the deadline for each, and their pros and cons. This section of the article explores the different types of college applications, including the deadline for each and most other things you should know.

Regular Decision

Application Deadline: Early January to Mid-February

As the name signifies, regular decision applications are the most common type of application to college. Thus, they make up the largest part of applications received yearly. It simply means applying during the regular period for admission decisions. The timeline for this application depends on the school, however, students can typically expect to receive their admission decisions between mid-March to the early days of April.

This type of admission application is usually the latest, so it gives students enough time to prepare their application materials in preparation for application.

Early Action

Application Deadline: Early to Mid-November

As its name signifies, this application must be completed earlier, as it generally indicates a greater desire to attend a particular college. However, unlike early decision, early action allows you to get an early admission decision without committing to attending the school if you get admitted. When admitted via early action, you also won’t necessarily need to respond to the admission decision until the national deadline of May 1. Thus, allowing you enough time to compare available college offers and choose the best for you. Students choosing this application option should generally expect to receive their admission decisions in December.

Early Decision

Application Deadline: Early to Mid-November

Like early action, this application deadline means applying to college a little earlier than usual and expecting an admission decision a little earlier. Usually, admission decisions are released around December. However, the difference is that early decision has a binding enrollment agreement. So, while applying for an early decision, you agree to withdraw all other college applications and focus on your early decision application. Thus, before applying for an early decision in a school, you should have your mind completely decided to attend that school.

Some colleges offer two early decision deadlines (Early Decision I and II). Look at the college admissions website to know what’s available before choosing.

Rolling Admissions

Application Deadline: Varies Based on School

This type of application is unique because colleges with rolling admissions do not maintain set deadlines. Instead, they evaluate applications as they come in. This unique formula offers such schools several application windows within an academic year. Usually, it involves accepting and reviewing applications until they’ve successfully filled all spots in upcoming classes.

Most colleges offering this kind of admission would open admission around September 1. The window can last as long as up to the spring period, depending on the remaining spots. However, this is entirely up to the school’s choice. So, we typically advise checking the requirements and deadlines on a school’s website before starting.

To efficiently answer the question, “When should applications for college be submitted?” You must first understand the pros and cons of the different types of college deadlines. Let’s review some of the pros and cons of each application deadline.

Pros and Cons of Applying Regular Decision

Pros and Cons of Applying Regular Decision


  • This application deadline allows you to apply to as many schools as you want before making your final choice without consequences.
  • It allows for a later deadline to submit your application, making it an excellent option for students planning to retake their ACT or SAT for a higher score.
  • This application’s later deadline also gives applicants more time to perfect their essays.


  • Applying for a Regular Decision typically means you’ll not hear from the college about the admission decision until the spring. This can make the whole period hectic since it typically clashes with graduation season.

Pros and Cons of Applying to Early Action

Pros and Cons of Applying to Early Action


  • Applying early means, you can get to know your fate about admission on time enough to either apply to other schools or not.
  • Early application means higher chances of getting accepted
  • The non-binding policy of early action means you can apply to multiple schools at once (as long as there’s no stated policy disallowing it).
  • Early admission can significantly reduce the admission stress applicants will usually face.


  • Not every school offers early action, so you must research to know which schools offer it before choosing. Schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT offer early action.

Pros and Cons of Applying to Early Decision

Pros and Cons of Applying to Early Decision


  • Like early action, early decision typically gives applicants higher chances of acceptance. However, in this case, students have even higher odds of getting accepted because they are designed to show even greater commitment to the college from the student.
  • Early admission gives you enough time to prepare for school before packing your things.


  • The most significant disadvantage of this option is that it doesn’t work well for students needing financial aid since students must finish their applications long before the college processes financial aid.
  • Making your choice is complicated since you can only apply for an early decision in one school.
  • Despite the early admission decision, a rejected student cannot apply to another institution in the same year.

Pros and Cons of Applying to Rolling Admission

Pros and Cons of Applying to Rolling Admission


  • You’ll usually get an admission decision a few weeks after submission, so if you want an early decision, here’s a perfect option for you.
  • This process offers a longer application period, making it an excellent last-minute college option.
  • Admission officers judge these applications almost as soon as they are received, thus creating fewer chances for competition.


  • Some schools typically require early responses from students after receiving admission decisions.
  • While it’s possible to delay application in this system, the delays still make admission a tad difficult.
  • Available spots for admission can fill up quicker than you expect, considering how applications are processed.

Examples of College Application Deadlines

Examples of College Application Deadlines

Beyond knowing the different types of college application deadlines, it’s important to know when college applications should be submitted. After all, the final component for your application to get going is timely submission. Here are examples of popular US universities that practice the college application deadlines reviewed above.

Regular Decision Deadline

College Name Regular Decision Deadline
John Hopkins University January 3
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) February 1
Northwestern University January 3
University of California (Berkeley) November 30
New York University January 5
Carnegie Mellon University January 3
Duke University January 4
Boston University January 4
San Jose University April 1

Early Action Deadline

College Name Early Action Deadline
Columbia University March 1
Harvard University November 1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) November 1
University of Chicago November 1
Yale University November 1
Princeton University November 1
University of Michigan November 1

Early Decision Application Deadline

College Name ED I Application Deadline ED II Application Deadline
Boston University November 1 January 4
New York University November 1 January 1
Columbia University January 15 March 1
University of Pennsylvania November 1
Wesleyan University November 15 January 1
Cornell University November 1
Duke University November 1
Carnegie Mellon University November 1 January 3

3 Things You Should Prepare in Your College Application

3 Things You Should Prepare in Your College Application

When it comes to applying for college, it’s often one thing to know the different college application deadlines and another thing to know exactly how to apply before these deadlines. One question you’ll find yourself asking as a college applicant is, “What exactly are colleges looking for in applicants?” Don’t worry; you’re not the first to ask this question.

While different colleges have different requirements for applicants, almost all of them want your application to stand out, irrespective of the college application deadline you choose. Therefore, we typically recommend that your college application emphasizes your best, most impressive qualities. An excellent college application will also easily show your interest in the school. Here’s a brief review of some of the most important things to add to your college application to make it stand out in any case.

Excellent Grades in Challenging Courses

Whether you’re a fresh student or a transfer student, the first important aspect to think about when filling out your college application is your transcript. Transcripts generally include your high school classes, grades and GPA. You’ve probably heard people talk about how a high GPA strengthens applications, and we’re not here to dispute that. In fact, a study by NACAC showed that 3/4 of colleges rank high school grades as considerably important.

However, beyond having a high GPA, you want to also ensure that your GPA is higher than the average GPA of students applying to your choice college. Thus, we typically recommend finding the average GPA of a college by searching for the school’s admission requirements before applying. You must also pay attention to your class choices throughout high school to impress admission officers. Most colleges would use the challenging level of classes offered to choose students from a pool of applicants with a similar grade range.

Work Experience (Relevant)

Let’s start by mentioning that you’re not required to work any part-time job as part of your high school syllables. However, it doesn’t harm you to have some work experience. In fact, work experiences can be beneficial to your college application, especially if they are related to your chosen course.

Don’t wait to include a polished job connected to a long-term career or professional goal in your application. You don’t want to undermine any experience you have, so we recommend including all of them (part-time and full-time). Beyond showing your enthusiasm about a particular field, it emphasizes your sense of maturity, responsibility, and willingness to pursue set goals. All these are top qualities admission officers look out for in prospective students.

Additionally, if an application allows enough room to elaborate on past job experiences, do it carefully. Beyond listing your experience, explain how your experience has helped change your perspective and what skills and values you’ve learned from it.

Volunteering Experience with Measurable Impact 

College admission officers love to hear about applicants’ volunteering experience. But beyond hearing about these experiences, they want to know how much impact you’ve made with these activities. This means that your volunteering experience should have brought positive changes to a group, organization, or community. They want to see these changes.

For example, you’ve volunteered to help a local library with an idea that’ll help them raise funds to continue running. The figure you’re able to raise will be a concrete indicator of the level of impact your efforts had on the library.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be the leader of your volunteering group to include your effort in your application. Although most admission officers are big fans of students who show a glimpse of their budding leadership skills through their application.

Wrapping Things Up: How Do College Application Deadlines Work?

Applying for college can be both exciting and stressful. While you’re pumped up for the new experience, keeping track of all the deadlines that come with the process can be overwhelming. One of the first deadlines that comes to mind is the college application deadline itself. Most colleges have deadlines that applicants must adhere to or face the risk of getting their applications rejected. So far in this article, we’ve explained everything you should know about college deadlines and how they work in different colleges. We’ve also explained the four common types of college application deadlines and their pros. Hopefully, you can use the information in this article to craft the perfect application for your college ambition. We also hope you’re able to explain application deadlines next time you hear the question: “how do college application deadlines work?”

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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