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When should you apply: Regular, Rolling or Early Admission?

Decision plans fall into three major categories: regular, rolling and early. Then there are additional variations of the early options – early action, early decision, and restrictive early action. These can be confusing but bottom line is,  all what timetable you choose depends on the type of schools you wish to apply to and your circumstances. Colleges have different plans based on size, mission and enrollment objectives. Most students apply to college under regular decision plans.


Make sure you look carefully at the websites of your schools and consider all possible options.


Regular admission (deadlines are usually in January, with a decision on a specified date, usually sometime from mid-March to mid-April) are nonrestrictive. If accepted, students must respond by May 1st.


Rolling admission is when applications are reviewed as they are submitted. Depending on the school, decisions are made anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks or on a specified dates. Usually this is not a matter of choice, schools which offer it, don’t offer any other choices. Colleges review applications as they come, and applications continue to be accepted as long as spaces are available in the class. Many public colleges and universities have rolling decision plans.


Earlier Action is what it says. Students apply by an earlier deadline and receive an earlier decision. Students can be accepted, denied or deferred. Deferred means they are placed in the regular admission pool for later consideration. You may need to send the school updated information, such as first-semester grades, scores from relevant tests and whatever other material the school indicates they may need.


There are also restrictive plans which commit the student to attending a certain school or prevent him/her from applying to other schools.


Early Decision is when students apply to only one early decision school and sign a binding commitment to enroll if accepted. Deadlines are early, usually in November and notification usually in December. If accepted a student has to withdraw all other applications from other schools. If you are denied early decision, you will not be reconsidered. You are advised to focus your effort on other schools.


Restrictive Early Decision is quite rare and follows similar deadlines as early decision but student is not committed to enrol.


Applying earlier will also increase your odds of being admitted. Many graduate programs have rolling admissions, so applications are evaluated as they arrive (rather than all at once). Spots fill up as the final deadline draws near.



Is it Better to Apply Early?


There is no clear advantage to applying early but under certain circumstances that can bring benefits. Depends on the specific college and whether you are a suitable candidate for an early plan. At some schools, the early plan may be the most competitive part of the admission cycle; at others, it could be the least competitive.


…there is no way to know unless you read up on the school’s blogs, sites and chat to know what is the admit rate for regular decisions and early decisions. Admit rate is the percentage of applicants admitted by a college among those who applied. This is calculated by dividing the number of students admitted to a college by the number who applied.


…so if the admit rate for early application is higher than the admit rate under regular decision, there is no advantage in applying early. Some schools (usually the top school) attract statistically strong candidates in the early pool.


….make an effort to understand how the early decision plan works? Is the school focusing on attracting the academically strong in the early stage or on the bottom of their academic profile, such as athletes, or candidates with families who have attended, contributed or in any way with other credentials.


….regular decision gives you more time to prepare your application. It gives you better chances to strengthen your senior-year extracurricular achievements, improve grades and have senior teachers write letters on your behalf. 

January 22, 2015

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