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  • Writer's pictureNancy Adis

When to Apply to College - ED, EA, RD… What Does It All Mean?

Planning to apply to college but not sure when you really have to work on those applications? Now is the time! Many (but not all) colleges and universities offer a variety of different deadlines for their admissions applications. Here are a few of the common ones:

ED - Early Decision This deadline is earlier, in the fall of senior year, and it is a binding decision. That means that if you are offered admission, you are obligated to attend this college or university. So, if there is ONE institution that you would love to attend more than any other and you (and your parents) are willing to commit to that, applying ED will often give you a better chance at obtaining admission while also getting an answer back to you sooner than the regular application cycle.

EA - Early Action This is another early deadline, often November 1st or November 15th - you should check for each college on your list, but it is not binding and you will still have until May 1st to make your decision on which of your offers of admission to accept. The benefit of EA is that you get your answers back sooner and have more opportunities to be awarded institutional merit scholarships (as many are only available to students who apply in the early cycle).

RD - Regular Decision This application cycle often has a deadline in early January and some schools only offer this application timing. Offers of admission will come in spring - often in March - and are not binding, so you have until May 1st to make your decision. This cycle gives you the most time to complete your applications if you have not already started writing the essay or gathering letters of recommendation.

At Confident College Planning we always encourage students to try to get at least some of the applications out by the non binding EA deadline. If you can dedicate time in the early fall to getting applications submitted, after that you can turn your attention to enjoying your senior year, while also getting answers back sooner. Another bonus is if you are able to decide on which college to attend sooner, there are a variety of other potential perks like getting to sign up for housing sooner (getting more “choice” halls), registering for classes earlier, getting better parking, and/or other incentives offered by various colleges to encourage students to commit to the institution as early as possible. There are more nuances to deciding which application cycle is best for each student and we would be happy to discuss it with you.

If you are a senior and you haven’t yet started your application, don’t worry. Confident College Planning can help - whether you are just starting the process and need some information on steps to complete, would like help researching colleges for your specific interests, or need help fine-tuning your application and essay, contact me today at I meet students wherever they are in the process so they can find the best personal choice.

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