When Are College Applications Due? Your Questions Answered

Old-fashioned black alarm clock on table next to blank white notebook
August 28, 2023
8 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 7/21/23

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 and when college applications are due to help you send yours in on time. 

College Application Deadlines For 2023/2024

Application deadline Admission decision
Early decision Early to mid-November Mid-December
Early action Early to mid-November Mid-December
Regular decision Early January to mid-February Mid-March to early April
Rolling admission Varies 4-6 weeks after submission

When you should start applying for colleges ultimately depends on which option and school you choose. Take a look at the video below to discover which type of college app is best for you!

Please use our free admissions calender tool to help you plan out your application strategy and ensure you never miss an admissions deadline!

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 respond 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.

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: 

  • Accept the offer and attend the college 
  • Pay the non-refundable deposit
  • Withdraw all of your other college applications 

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:

  • Carefully consider your college and program options
  • Gather and improve all your documents
  • Finish and revise your essays
  • Take tests or retests
  • Improve your course grades

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. 

benefits of rolling admisions infographic

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 colleges in the Ivy League. These deadlines can help you plan when you should start applying for colleges depending on your academic goals. 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

  • Early Decision Application Deadline: November 1st
  • Regular Decision Application Deadline: January 2nd
  • Spring Semester Transfer Admission Deadline: October 15th
  • Fall Semester Transfer Admission Deadline: March 15th

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. 

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 To College?

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

6. When Are Early Action And Early Decision Applications Due?

Early Decision/Early Action deadlines are typically between November or early December, although exact dates vary between schools. Applying early demonstrates your vested interest in the college and may even give you an advantage in the admissions process.

7. Are College Applications Due at Midnight?

The specific deadline for college applications varies among institutions, so it's important to check the requirements and guidelines of each college you are applying to. While some colleges may have a midnight deadline, others may have earlier deadlines, such as 5:00 PM or a specific time zone. 

8. What Is the Deadline to Apply to Most Colleges?

The deadline to apply to most colleges typically falls between the months of November and January, with specific dates varying among institutions. Regular Decision deadlines typically fall in January or early February. This is the standard time frame for most colleges, though exact dates vary between schools. 

Some colleges have a rolling admissions process, which means they accept and review applications on an ongoing basis until spaces are filled. In which case, you should still aim to apply as early as possible to increase your chances of admission.

9. What Is the Best Month to Apply for College?

The best month to apply for college depends on various factors, including the specific colleges you are interested in and the application deadlines they have in place. However, there are a few general guidelines to consider:

If you are considering applying through an early admissions program, the best month to apply is typically in October or November. For regular decision deadlines, the best month to apply is generally in December or January. Aim to submit your application well before the stated deadline to ensure that it is reviewed thoroughly and to avoid any last-minute issues.

10. When Should I Apply for Fall 2024?

If you’re hoping to go to college in fall of 2024, you should start applying to schools from summer 2023 to early fall 2023.

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. 

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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