How The Different College Application Deadlines Can Impact Your Student and Financial Aid

College application deadlines are not the most exciting topic to consider as your teen prepares for college during high school, but it’s a very important topic one. It’s important because it can make a big difference in terms of what you pay for college as well as impact your student’s chances on getting admitted.

Each year there are different application deadlines that your teen can use for their applications for college. They sound similar, so it can be confusing to understand how they are different. I’ll explain how they can impact your teen and their college future.

One of the deadlines is simply the regular decision deadline that happens every year,  usually around January. The thing to remember is that application deadlines are very unforgiving, so your teen needs to make sure that they meet that deadline.

Regular decision is a standard deadline, and another deadline you may hear about is the “rolling deadline”. The rolling deadline means that your teen can submit their application at any time. Usually they’ll get a notice back of a decision about three or four weeks later (but sometimes it could be sooner, depending on the time of year).

The rolling deadline is one that doesn’t have a specific date. So, it could start perhaps as soon as October and keep going until the final deadline, which means that all the applications have to be in by that time. Or it can be set to go as late as the spring of senior year.

Now that we’ve covered standard and rolling deadlines, I want to review two other deadlines that can be a bit confusing because they start with the same word. One of these deadlines is the “early action deadline”. Early action is non-binding, which means that your teen can apply to an early action deadline and usually they’ll find out the decision perhaps around December. It gives them a little bit of ease, especially if they do get admitted, because they’ll know pretty much where their application stands. Then, if they want to apply to some additional colleges, they still have time to do that under the regular deadline.

The fourth deadline I want to talk about also starts with early, and it’s called “early decision deadline”. Early decision is more strict because this deadline is binding. Every year, there are a lot of families that will apply under the early decision deadline. With the early decision deadline, because it’s binding, you cannot apply to any other colleges that have any type of restrictive deadlines. You want to make sure that you read the fine print on that.

The early decision deadline is one that the parents have to sign off on. Also, the school counselor will be notified as well. The key thing with the early decision deadline is that it means that if your teen is admitted, they must go to that college, regardless of financial aid. This is where sometimes I will see families who decide to do the early decision deadline, because that’s the only one that a particular college offers for them (either early decision or regular).

Generally with the earlier application rounds, the admissions rate is a bit more favorable. Families that want to make sure that their teen has the best shot in terms of admissions will often go ahead and exercise that option to use the early decision deadline. But soon after, if the decision comes back positive in December, you have a short window of time to withdraw all of your other applications and to submit your deposit to hold your space.

That’s a really serious deadline. Sometimes families will say, “Oh, I didn’t know. I thought we would be eligible for financial aid.” They get a surprise that they don’t get any additional aid and then it’s trying to figure out, “Okay, how do we pay for it?”

It’s a deadline that I wouldn’t take lightly. It’s certainly your family’s choice if you decide to do the early decision round, but know that it means that your teen will be going if they get admitted, regardless of what the financial aid is.

At least with the early action option, you have a chance to look through the financial aid offers from other colleges as well. On the flipside, some colleges will offer only the early decision deadline, and then others may have an early action, or they can also have an early decision as well. So you want to be sure you know the deadlines for your student’s college of choice when they begin applying!

One thing I will add about the very late regular decision deadlines is that sometimes colleges will say the deadline is June 1st. They will be filling those seats before then,  so for colleges that may have a very late regular decision deadline doesn’t mean that you can apply on May 31st still find seats available. It’s a point to keep that in mind when your student is scheduling when to submit applications.

Do you have questions about application deadlines and helping your student get into their dream school? Application deadlines can make a big difference in terms of what you could end up paying. In some cases, it can also make a difference as to where your teen gets admitted. I look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or thought about the process!

If you’re a parent of a high school student preparing for college, I have created a free online training class that answers the most common questions I get from parents: “How to Find The Right College.” It offers insight into the college application process as well as how to get money for college. You can check it out and register for it HERE.

Private College vs. Public: Important Differences You Need to Know

Private college vs. public college

Are you stuck deciding between a public college and a private college?

Many students and their families face this dilemma.

Maybe you’ve decided you’ll never be able to afford a private college. Or you think a public university or state school won’t have the course offerings you need.

Each has its own benefits, but there are considerations about private colleges and public universities that could make either one a better choice for you.

Either way, there are plenty of misconceptions about post-secondary institutions.

Whether you’re a prospective student or the parent of one, this post should help clarify differences between public universities and private colleges, to help you make the most informed decision.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a private college?

Private colleges are privately funded institutions that rely on tuition, endowments, and donations for their funding.

However, these schools may still receive tax breaks, grants, and loans from the government.

Private colleges can often dictate their own policies, but depending on where they’re located, they may still be subject to government regulation.

Private colleges almost always have fewer students. The average enrollment at a private college is 1,900 students or less.

It’s also estimated that about 20 percent of post-secondary students in the United States attend private colleges.

What is a public university?

Unlike a private college, a public university is publicly funded, which means tax dollars are the primary source of income for these schools. Usually, they are operated by state government entities.

When you hear of “state schools”, they’re almost always referring to public universities. Some states have more than 30 of these institutions, and each state has at least one.

So, now that we know the fundamental definitions of public universities and private colleges, let’s dive into some other important differences.


State-funded schools were largely built to offer an affordable post-secondary option to its residents. After all, the taxes they pay go toward funding public universities. For that reason, public universities often have lower tuition rates for residents from that state than a private college would.

That being said, there are often bigger scholarship opportunities available to private college students, so don’t count them out just yet if you’re worried about cost!

Financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

If you compare the sticker price of private college tuition to public university tuition, the private college will be higher.

Just look at this data from the US Department of Education for average total tuition, fees, and room and board rates charged for full-time, four-year undergraduate students in degree-granting institutions for 2015/2016:

Private college: $48,510
Public university (in-state): $21,370
Public university (out-of-state): $37,430

If you look only at those numbers, you might make up your mind right then and there that a private college is too expensive for you.

But wait till you hear what I have to tell you next.

There are some very sizable financial aid options available to eligible students who go to a private university!

So sizable, in fact, these financial aid packages and grants often offset tuition cost enough that attending a private college could be comparable to—or even less expensive than—attending a public university.

Scholarship opportunities for private college students may also be much greater than they are for public university students.

While we’re on the topic, take a look at this post I wrote about not letting the college sticker price fool you at first glance.


Another important distinction between public universities and private colleges is the student body and class size at each.

As I mentioned, most private colleges have an undergraduate class of around 1,900. Public universities, on the other hand, may have an undergraduate class at least ten times that size.

Understandably, with bigger student bodies there tend to be bigger class sizes.

For students who prefer a smaller class size and more individualized learning experiences, this factor may draw them to a private college.

But a larger student body population can also have its advantages, including a broader selection of course offerings.

Course offerings.

As I mentioned, bigger schools often offer more course selections for their students because they have the student body to fill those courses.

For students who want a wide selection of courses and degree options to try, a public university might be the ideal choice.

When a student has a particular focus (liberal arts, for example) a private college may be the perfect choice.

If you happen to be one of those students looking for a private college with a liberal arts focus, I recommend you have a look at this post where I outline why Williams is the #1 liberal arts college in the country. 

Choosing between a public or private school.

There’s no doubt that choosing the right school for you is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. To help you with this decision, we’ve outlined some key differences between public and private post-secondary schools.

The best choice for you often comes down to price, location, where you’re accepted, and course offerings.

It’s important to remember not to write a college off at first glance without doing research into available options to help with tuition and other costs.

I offer plenty of other free resources for help with choosing a college—you’ll find those right here.

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.

If you’d like to learn more about getting into college and getting money for college, don’t miss these articles either:

How to Save Time When Seeking Money for College
7 Ways to Support Your Child During the College Application Process
How to Avoid Overpaying for College