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Types of College Admissions
Regular decision means that a college has a fixed deadline for applications, for example, January 15, February 1 or March 1. Students are encouraged to complete their applications as early in the fall as possible. The college receives applications and reports from the school (transcript, school profile, etc.) for students prior to the deadline and creates a file for each applicant. Decisions are made after the application deadline.
Many private and the majority of public colleges and universities operate under a rolling admission policy. Rolling admission means that the student may apply anytime before the deadline and each application is reviewed as it is received. IT IS CLEARLY TO THE STUDENT'S ADVANTAGE TO APPLY TO ROLLING ADMISSION SCHOOLS AS EARLY IN THE SENIOR YEAR AS POSSIBLE. Certain state university systems, e.g. the University of California schools, have deadlines as early November 30th. Students are generally notified 4-8 weeks after the application is received. Sometimes a student may be deferred until the school can receive additional information such as midyear senior grades or additional CollegeBoard scores.
Early decision is a contract that a student enters into with a particular college stating that if the college accepts the student, the student will definitely attend. Early decision deadlines are usually November 1 or November 15 of senior year and students are notified by mid-December. As this is a contract, early decision applications must usually be signed by the student, parent and counselor. Early decision may give the students some advantage in the admission process. A student should apply early decision if he/she fulfills the following three criteria: (1) the early decision school is absolutely and 100% the student's first choice; and (2) the student is the best candidate he/she will be by the application deadline, and (3) financial aid is not a major worry, because if accepted, the student will be bound to the financial aid package the college comes up with and not have the opportunity to compare financial aid packages as they would had they applied regular decision, early action or rolling admission to other schools. Counselors will always advise a student about this. A student who applies early decision may be accepted, denied admission or deferred to the regular admission applicant pool. In case of deferral, the early decision contract no longer applies.
Early action is also sometimes called Early Notification or Non-Binding Early Decision. The entire process is identical to Early Decision except that no contract to attend is involved. A student accepted under early action may still apply to other schools and attend whichever he/she chooses.
Single Choice Early Action
Some schools have begun to offer this early option, which is a variation of Early Action and Early Decision. Students applying to a school with this early policy cannot apply to another school early (either Early Action or Early Decision). However, it is not a binding contract if they are admitted to the school. That is, a student will find out from this school if they have been admitted early, but they do not have to commit to that school until May 1st. In turn, students are then allowed to apply to other schools regular decision if they so desire. As with any early plan, students and parents should consult each school regarding their specific policies.