The College Series Pt. 4: When to Apply

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Smell that? Smell what, you might ask. Inhale. Exhale. Don’t have a panic attack- that’s the smell of school right around the corner. It feels like it was only a few days back that it was June 10th and I was bingeing Netflix shows when I was nominally supposed to be at school. How time spirals away. The school year is going to bring lots of challenges, especially with IB (anyone have Naveh first period?). But you’re going to have to keep at it with your applications. Especially because there are deadlines. Some of them sooner, some of them later. All of them important to be aware of. Here’s a list of the admissions deadlines you need to know, and what to consider when deciding which of them to apply by. 



Many schools have rolling admissions, which is when they keep accepting students until April of a given senior year or until their requirements for class size are met. These schools will let you know if you’ve been accepted within a few weeks of receiving your application- but getting accepted gets harder as time goes on and more and more people have applied. Just because a school has rolling admissions in general doesn’t mean that all of its programs will be rolling. Pitt is rolling admissions but has early action deadlines for some specialized medical undergraduate programs. Rolling admissions is great for people who want to get the college admissions cycle done with or for those who are applying to safety schools. 


Early Decision (ED)

ED allows students to apply early to a given school. ED is binding, meaning that a student is obligated to attend the school if it accepts them. It’s intended for students who know they want to attend a specific university or program, and it’s usually only offered by top-tier public and private colleges and universities. If you’re certain that you want to go to a specific school, you want to increase your chances of acceptance, and you’ll have everything prepared by November 1st, check to see if they offer ED on their decision page. 


Early Decision II (ED II)

ED II is like ED in that it’s a binding application, but it comes later in the year- December or January. That means that you’re not applying much earlier than regular decision, if at all, but you’re hearing back earlier (in January or February) and are still obligated to go to the school if accepted.


Early Action (EA)

Like ED, EA usually has an application deadline in November and will allow you to hear your results in December. The difference is that EA is neither binding nor does it prevent you from applying to other schools at the same time. That includes other EA schools and rolling admissions. Just like with ED, apply through EA only if you’re quite certain about going to a school and will have an application completely prepared in time. 


Early Action II (EA II)

A few schools offer EA II, which is the non-binding equivalent of ED II. EA II usually has deadlines in December or January (the most common dates being the 15th of either month), and promises a response within 30-45 days. Even though the application time is about the same as Regular Decision, checking the EA box is a way of still showing your interest. 


Restrictive Early Action

REA treads a line between ED and EA. With it, you’re not obligated to attend a school if it accepts you. But you are prevented from applying to any other schools early- except for international schools, rolling admission schools, non-binding public schools, or ED II schools. That’s a lot of exceptions, mainly because REA schools are only really trying to prevent you from applying early to any other private schools offering EA or ED. REA is offered by only the best private colleges and universities. 


Regular Decision

It’s, well, regular. RD is the normal December-January application deadline where you hear back from colleges by April 1st. This is still the number one way to apply to colleges, and it’s when they’ll receive the most applications.