When Are College Applications Due? Your Questions Answered

Old-fashioned black alarm clock on table next to blank white notebook
November 8, 2022
Different Options for College ApplicationEarly Action College DeadlinesEarly Decision College Application DeadlinesRegular Decision College Application DeadlinesRolling Admission DeadlinesTransfer DeadlinesIvy League Deadlines for Fall 2022FAQ: College Applications Due Dates


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/13/22

This article will provide an in-depth breakdown of the college application deadline, an essential yet often overlooked factor in applying.

Applying to college is a long and complex process that requires lots of dedication, work ethic, and careful thought. But do you know what is the most important for your college application? Hint: it’s not your GPA,  SAT or ACT scores, personal statement, or extracurricular activities. As important as these elements are, one thing still ranks above them all — the application deadline. 

Whether you applied before or after the application deadline directly determines the validity of your entire application. If you submit your application too late, you will be immediately disqualified, no matter how competitive and successful of a candidate you are.

Therefore, it should be your top priority to apply to college by the deadline. Remember, an application is useless no matter how qualified and well constructed it is if you didn’t submit it in time. After all, it’s called a deadline for a reason. If it’s submitted past the line, the application is “dead,” if you will.

This article will break down everything you need to know about college application deadlines to help you send yours in on time. 

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Different Options for College Application

Many colleges will have various application options for applicants, which allows you to submit your app by different deadlines. These options usually include:

However, regardless of what option you choose, your application would normally include the following documents:

That being said, every college offers a range of different options for application. Each varies in deadline for applying, the date that the admission decisions are announced, and some have certain restrictions that you should be mindful of. Without further ado, let’s break down each of the different application options in full detail. 

Early Action College Deadlines

The early action application period allows students to apply earlier than the regular application deadlines. These applicants will also receive their admission decision earlier than the regular applicants. 

The early action deadline is usually around early to mid-November, and candidates who take this application option will receive their admission decisions around December of the same year. 

The early action option is excellent for students who want an early admission decision, as they don’t need to wait as long for it to come out. Getting a decision earlier also gives students more time to make adjustments and decisions. 

After all, students who apply for early action aren’t required to make a response until May 1st of the following year, which is the deadline for national college decisions of applicants. Therefore, this option gives students much more time to make their final decisions. 

Early Action Deferred Applications 

Another unique feature of early action applications is deferment. A deferred application is one that didn’t get accepted during the early application round, but colleges will reconsider it along with the applications submitted during the regular period. 

Many students dread a deferment because they view it as an indication of inadequacy, and they need to compete with the regular applicants. However, a deferment is not a rejection, as you still have a chance to be accepted later on

A deferred college application lets you know that your application still needs some work while still leaving you chances to make amends. Being deferred can be advantageous as schools may give you specific feedback on which aspects are lacking, and they will review your application for a second time. 

Restrictive Early Action

Restrictive early action, or the single option early action, is a variant of the early action option. If students choose this option for applying, they are not allowed to apply early at any other institution

In other words, restrictive early action means you can only apply early to one program for a year. Some schools may still allow you to apply to other public universities. Still, if you’re applying for restrictive early action, you should be prepared to forfeit any plans of applying early elsewhere.

Universities offer restrictive early action because they want commitment and certainty from applicants. One advantage of applying for restrictive early action is that it shows schools how much you prioritize the program, which will help to leave a good impression on your application.

Early Decision College Application Deadlines

The early decision application is another option that allows applicants to submit their applications ahead of the regular period. Like early action, the deadline is usually around mid-November, and applicants typically get their admission decisions in December of the same year.

One significant difference between early decision and early action is that early decision comes with a binding agreement to enroll once accepted. In other words, if you applied for an early decision and got an offer of admission, you must do the following: 

While this option is beneficial to schools because it ensures candidates’ commitment, students can find the binding agreement attached to early decision restricting. Another drawback of early decision is that some schools won’t show you your financial aid offer when applying. This can be very troublesome for students who aren’t financially secure enough to take the program they applied for. 

As a result, despite allowing students to apply early, the early decision option usually isn’t viable for many applicants. But similar to restrictive early action, the early decision signals an applicant’s persistence. If you’re determined to go to a school and you want to apply early, this option is a great choice.

Regular Decision College Application Deadlines

As the name suggests, the regular decision application is for applicants who submit their applications during the regular admission period, which starts after the early application options end. 

Though the regular decision deadline usually falls in January, some schools can accept applications as early as December or as late as February. Applicants often hear back from schools during mid-to-late March or early April, and those who get an offer of admission are required to respond by May 1st. 

The regular application period has the widest time window of all application options in most cases. It is also taken by most applicants each year, which means you will have more considerable competition. Thus, you must utilize the ample amount of time for preparation, which includes:

One downside of the regular decision option is that you have less time to make adjustments to plans because the admission decision comes out at a much later date. Additionally, once you get rejected during the regular application period, you’ll have to wait for next year/semester to apply again.

Rolling Admission Deadlines

Unlike the previous application options, rolling admission reviews applicants as they come in and make decisions shortly after the reviewing is finished, rather than giving all decisions in a set time period. Additionally, in most cases, rolling admission doesn’t have a fixed deadline, as it ends as soon as all the open spots for the offered programs are taken. 

Essentially, rolling admission operates on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the earlier you apply, the earlier you’ll hear back from the school. Therefore, it is better to apply sooner than later.

Schools with rolling admission often open their application windows around September 1st. It can continue well into the spring term, some even continuing after the fall term has already begun! This distinctive characteristic can allow more flexibility in the schedule of applying, as there is no fixed deadline for rolling admission. 

However, don’t let this fool you into assuming rolling admission means you have lots of time. Open spots are limited and given on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you apply too late, and there are no more vacancies by the time the committee has gotten your application, you will be rejected. 

Although it is key to apply as soon as possible, don’t sacrifice quality. Submitting your application early will do you no favors if it’s rushed. Suppose your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars are all in a promising place at the beginning of your grade 12 school year, and you’re almost finished with other documents. In that case, you’re in an excellent position to apply for rolling admissions. 

However, if you need more time to prepare or improve your application, and the program or school you’re applying to is very popular, rolling admission may not be viable. But don’t let that deter you from trying. You never know, after all! 

Because rolling admission doesn’t have a fixed deadline, the date you’ll get your admission decision is tricky to say. Some universities will tell you when to expect to hear back, but in general, it takes four to six weeks to get the decision for rolling admission. 

Transfer Deadlines

The above application options mainly apply to high school students looking to attend a  post-secondary college. On the other hand, a transfer application is usually for college students who wish to change their program/school due to financial reasons or a shift of interest. 

The deadline for transfer admission is harder to pin down. Still, it is recommended that students complete and submit their applications by March or April for admission that fall, which is roughly the same deadline for regular applications. Of course, each school has its opening date and deadlines for transfer student applications, so it is up to you to keep track of the specific deadline. 

Another important factor for applying to transfer is what year you’re in at the time of applying. If you’re transferring in your first year of college, your high school transcript is usually more important.

Still, once you transfer in your second, third, or in rare cases, the fourth year of college, your academic performance in college is vital. 

You should also pay attention to transfer credit policies for the school and program you to apply to, so you know what you need to enroll in and how it will impact your academic trajectory and graduation. 

Ivy League Deadlines

The Ivy League schools are eight of the most prestigious, respected, and competitive universities in the USA. They are famous for their excellent education, prestigious histories, selectiveness, and extremely low acceptance rates

If you’re aspiring enough to apply for any of these schools, here are the application deadlines for Fall 2022 admission of each Ivy League school. Note that the dates are subject to change.

Princeton University Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Princeton University

Columbia University Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Columbia University:

Harvard University Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Harvard University

Yale University Deadlines 

Here are the deadlines for Yale University

University of Pennsylvania Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for UPenn

Dartmouth College Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Dartmouth College

Brown University Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Brown University

Cornell University Deadlines

Here are the deadlines for Cornell University

FAQ: College Applications Due Dates

And that’s all you need to know about college application due dates! If you still have questions, don’t worry. Check out these FAQs in case you found the answers that you want!

1. What Happens if You Break the Early Decision Commitment? 

Early decision isn’t legally binding, so you won’t be in too much trouble for breaking the commitment. But there may still be consequences for backing out.

If students are unable to attend the program they applied to due to financial reasons, even with the financial aid the school offers, then the school may terminate the early decision commitment with no penalty. Other conditions, such as a family member that requires care, may also result in penalty-free release.

However, if a student backs out without a good reason, the process of withdrawing may be more complicated and time-consuming. Even after a successful withdrawal, the applicant and the college, and in worse cases, the high school, may end up on bad terms with each other. 

Furthermore, if an applicant applied for an early decision in more than one instance, the student could lose acceptance to all the schools they applied to. Remember: colleges treat application commitment very seriously. Therefore, again, don’t apply for an early decision unless you’re determined to go there. 

2. Are There Any Deadlines for Rolling Admissions?

In terms of applying itself, no. However, one thing you should keep in mind is that many schools may have priority deadlines for the rolling admission period. 

Applicants who submit their application prior to the priority deadlines will not only receive their admission decision at a guaranteed date, but they will also have access to better financial aid and housing given on a first-come-first-serve basis.  

3. Does Applying Early Actually Improve Your Chances of Getting Accepted?

According to the 2019 State of College Admission Report released by NACAC, there is a statistical trend that applicants who apply early have a larger acceptance rate than those who apply during regular admission. Although it is likely to be coincidental, experts do argue that applying early can increase your chances of getting accepted. 

For colleges, applying early can indicate higher interest and eagerness to attend. If students apply for restrictive early action or early decision, this indication is stronger due to the binding nature of these options. Additionally, applying early may signal that the applicant is more prepared, either due to better planning or better academic performance. 

However, despite the different connotations, do be aware that colleges review early applications exactly the same way they do with regular applications. 

4. When Is It Better to Apply During Regular Admission Instead of Early? 

If you’re not in an advantageous position and would like more time to improve your profile or raise your grades, it’s better to wait for a while instead of applying early. 

Remember, even though applying early will give you an edge, the quality of your application is much more important than when you apply. 

5. When Is the Earliest Possible Time I Can Apply?

For most schools, you can apply as early as August 1st of the year prior to the starting date of the Fall term.

Final Thoughts 

It might feel stressful to check up on application deadlines. But in reality, double-checking when you need to submit everything will make the application process much easier. Being aware of how much time you have left will let you have a clear picture of your circumstances, allowing you to make better plans. 

And remember: always plan ahead of time and start your preparation early! Even if you aren’t planning to apply early, you can still have enough time to make any adjustments or fixes if something comes up. The more time you have to perfect your application, the better it will be. 

When it comes to applying, having more time will rarely, if ever, be a disadvantage. So make sure to use your time wisely! 

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