There are lots of questions college-bound students should ask during the application process, but perhaps the most important question is “When is the deadline?” Deadlines are the date your application must be postmarked or filed electronically with each college. Here’s a guide to the options you have for filing college applications and rough deadlines to follow for each.   

  • Regular Decision Application Deadlines

Every college has its own application deadlines, but they generaly fall around the same time. The deadline for regular decision applications is normally between January 1 and February 1, depending on the college. Keep in mind that these deadlines are late enough that your first semester senior year grades will be looked at so keep them up! 

  • Early Decision Application Deadlines

Some colleges have added a second deadline for early decision applicants, meaning you’re committed to attending this school if you’re accepted. It benefits the college to accept students whom they know will attend, and it benefits those students who have their heart set on one school. Deadlines for early decision applications are usually January 1 which is really not very early, but these applications are binding. Think long and hard before filing an early decision application as you need to be very sure that’s the school of choice and that you can get accepted.    

  • Rolling Admission College Application Deadlines

Schools with rolling admissions policies – looking at applications as they come in until all spaces in the class have been filled – have deadlines as late as May 1. Some may continue to accept applications even later, depending on how many open slots remain. However, virtually all rolling admissions schools recommend that you get your application in by March 1 or earlier to have the best chance at being accepted.

Online or Snail Mail?

Most schools recommend applying using an online application form, and many will even waive the accompanying fees. It makes great sense: you save money, the application is filed immediately and you’ll know for sure that your application was received by the deadline!  If you do mail your application, get a delivery confirmation and receipt showing you mailed it on time in case anything goes wrong.

Being prepared and having your application materials ready before the last minute is the best way of saving a lot of stress come deadline day. To be safe, don’t push it to the last minute and get your application in early. At the very least, a late application can hurt your chances of being admitted. In a worst-case scenario, the school won’t even look at your application.