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Understanding the 7 Different College Admission Options

When applying to colleges, you should assume that each one is a little unique when it comes to their admission practices. Requirements, policies and deadlines do vary quite a bit from one institution to another. For that reason, it’s important to become familiar with the process at each college that you intend to apply to.

Having said that, you’ve probably heard standardized terms such as “Rolling Admission”, “Early Action”, “Early Decision”, and so on. These terms are used widely to describe various options that colleges offer for admissions plans. Each term describes a different structure with regard to application deadlines, response dates, and the applicant’s level of commitment to attend the school, if accepted.

To help you understand what they mean, here is a description of each:


Rolling Admissions are common at large state universities. Under this plan, you can apply at any time during the school’s admissions period. (Usually September through July). Applications are evaluated as soon as possible after they’re received, and acceptance letters are sent out to students who meet all requirements.

There are two things to keep in mind. (1) Even with Rolling Admissions, there will be an application deadline that you need to be aware of. (2) Rolling Admissions are granted on a first-come first-served basis, so it’s wise to submit your application as early as possible.

Early Action (EA)

If you choose Early Action, you will send in your application between late October and late November. The school will typically notify you in December, sometimes January, as to whether you were accepted, denied or deferred. If accepted, however, you are not bound to attend. You are free to accept the offer immediately, or to wait to until the spring to decide once you find out where else you may have been accepted.

Restricted Early Action (REA)

This is sometimes referred to as Single Choice Early Action. The difference between this plan and Early Action is that you are prohibited from applying to another college’s early admission plan, unless it is a public university; you must wait until you’ve heard back from your REA school first.

Early Decision (ED)

If you choose Early Decision, you will submit your application between mid-October and mid-November. Under this plan, you must enter into a written agreement that, if accepted, you will definitely attend the school. So, this is a good option if (and only if) you are very sure about a school being your first choice, and you are positive you can afford to attend.

Early Decision II (EDII)

Some schools provide two ED dates. The second one is for students who are sure about the school being their first choice, but aren’t ready to apply by the November ED deadline. It’s also helpful if you were denied from an ED school. The deadlines for EDII are usually around January 1st.

Regular Decision

This is the most common admission plan for four-year schools. Deadlines are usually at the beginning of January. The school reviews all regular decision applications and sends out acceptances and rejection letters together between mid-March and early April. You then have until May 1st to accept or decline an invitation to matriculate. There are no restrictions on how many schools you can apply to simultaneously under this plan, though a good rule of thumb is between seven and twelve schools.

Early Admission

Not all schools offer this option. Early Admission is for exceptionally qualified high school students who have exhausted the educational opportunities available to them at their high schools, and wish to enter college after the junior year of high school.

So, there are seven different admission options that you may have. You can also download this information in a handy visual chart that we’ve prepared.

If you’d like to discuss your college admissions options further, we’d love you to get in contact with us and begin a conversation about how we might be able to come alongside and help you through the process.


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