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5 Application Deadlines That Every Parent Must Understand

College application deadlines are super-important because they can make a difference in where your teen is admitted and how much your family pays for college!

When my student, Debbie, was a senior, she became enamored with Tufts University. She was excited about Tufts because of its balance of challenging academic courses and a strong supportive community for her. Tufts had 3 of the 5 deadlines at the time. Before I share more about Debbie’s decision, I want to briefly explain these application deadlines.

There are 5 application deadlines that every parent of a college-bound teen must understand.


Early Action

Your teen will submit their Early Action application usually in November and receive a response by mid-December. Early Action is NON-BINDING. This is important because while the teen may know their admissions decision in December, they still have until May 1 to decide if they’d like to enroll. The student will therefore have time to learn admissions decisions from other colleges and their financial awards before deciding. I generally encourage students to apply to 1-2 colleges through early action.


Restricted Early Action

Restricted Early Action is the same as Early Action except you can only apply to ONE college if they have a Restricted Early Action policy. Here are the colleges that have typically had Restricted Early Action:

  • Harvard College
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • Yale University

Be sure to read the fine print for your college of interest.


Early Decision

Early Decision is similar to Early Action with one caveat . . . it is binding. This means that if your teen is admitted through Early Decision then they must enroll in that college regardless of any financial award. That can be a bit risky for families unless they are sure that they will qualify for a need-based award or sure that they can pay the tuition and fees in full without assistance.

When a student applies through Early Decision, the parent must consent. It’s that serious. When Debbie applied, Tufts offered Early Decision 1 and Early Decision 2.


Rolling Admissions

A rolling admissions deadline means that a student can apply at any time and usually receive a response in 2-4 weeks. The colleges on a rolling admissions basis accept students first come. However, one thing that students should know is that the seats fill early. Even though a college may state in their policy that the admissions is rolling until March, all of their seats for an incoming freshman class may be filled by late January/early February.


Regular Decision

The majority of colleges will have a Regular Decision deadline even if they do not have any early deadlines. Most regular decision deadlines are January through March. Students will learn the admissions outcomes in late March, early April. The universal response date for all regular decision deadlines is May 1. In 2020, some colleges extended their notification date to June 1.

Regular Decision was the third option for Debbie to choose for her Tufts application.

To recap, Tufts was #1 on Debbie’s college list. She had a choice of applying Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2 or Regular Decision. Ultimately, she attended Tufts and her family paid in full. Which deadline did she apply? Post in the comments below.

About This Blog

This blog is valued by busy parents of college-bound teens. The topics covered in these posts are mined from years of listening to parents talk about their dreams for their children’s education.

This blog is written from the heart… as it’s my passion and life calling!

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