When Are College Applications Due? Key Admissions Deadlines

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the four common college application periods: early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling admission.

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For schools to prepare for incoming students and for incoming students to prepare for college, it’s important for all involved to plan ahead. One major part of that planning is the application process.

During the college application process, you’ll submit essays, transcripts, recommendations, and more in order to be considered for admittance into your university of choice. When you apply, you’ll need to adhere to strict deadlines, though there are several types of deadlines to know about during this time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the four most common college application deadlines: early decision, early action, regular decision, and rolling admission.

College application deadlines

Regardless of the admission type, college applications typically open around August 1 for the following Fall semester. At this time, you’ll be able to view the current application materials and most up-to-date requirements. You can also start submitting your applications then.

However, many people will spend more time working on their applications and apply closer to the deadlines. While each school may be slightly different, here are the deadlines for the most common application windows:

Application deadlineAdmission decision
Early decisionEarly to mid-NovemberMid-December
Early actionEarly to mid-NovemberMid-December
Regular decisionEarly January to mid-FebruaryMid-March to early April
Rolling admissionVaries4-6 weeks after submission

Let’s take a closer look at each application window.

To find out your desired school’s application deadlines, check the admissions section on the school’s official website. (Many universities will have a URL ending in .edu, which can help verify that you’re on the correct website.) You’ll often find a tab dedicated to the application process with key dates clearly outlined. Call the admissions office directly if you can’t locate the dates on the school’s website.

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Early decision deadlines

  • Application deadline: Early to mid-November

  • Admission decision: Mid-December

  • Pro: Finalize your admission decision for your top school months before regular admission decisions are sent

  • Con: If accepted, you must attend

Early decision enables students to submit their application and receive their admission decision before the regular application deadline. As an early decision applicant, your admission offer will be binding—if you’re accepted, you’re obligated to attend that school—so you can only apply for one school as an early decision applicant. This can be a good choice for someone who knows where they want to go to school and wants to speed up their admission process.

Some schools have two early decision deadlines. The first will typically be in early November, with your admission decision arriving in mid-December. You may apply for additional schools as an early action applicant during this period as well, but you still must attend your early decision school if you are accepted.

The second early decision deadline can be anywhere from mid-November to February, and you can expect your decision to follow within about two months. If the second early decision deadline is on or around the regular decision deadline, you may apply to other schools as a regular decision applicant. However, you will be expected to withdraw all other applications if your early decision school offers you admission.

With early decision, you'll typically have to apply with a binding agreement before receiving a financial aid package from the school or hearing back about any scholarship applications. Consider how this could impact your financial situation as you think about which type of admission deadline suits your needs.

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Early action deadlines

  • Application deadline: Early to mid-November

  • Admission decision: Mid-December

  • Pro: Know your admission status for your top schools months before regular admission decisions are sent

  • Con: Application deadline is months earlier than regular decision deadlines

The timeline for early action admissions is similar to early decision, but there’s one crucial difference: Early action admission offers are non-binding, meaning if you are accepted into a school, you can still decide to enroll elsewhere.

Typically, when you’re accepted as an early action applicant, you don’t have to notify the school of your decision until May 1, so you can continue to apply to other colleges during the regular decision period. For some students, a non-binding early acceptance can help alleviate some of the stress associated with the college application process.

As with early decision, some schools have two early action deadlines. This additional deadline is primarily a way for admissions officers to space out their work more evenly over the course of the admissions cycle. Whether you apply during the first or second early action wave, you can anticipate receiving your admission decision about one to two months after the application deadline.

Restrictive early action is a non-binding early application option, but carries the condition that you may only apply to one school during the early application period. With this policy, you may not apply to any other private schools as an early decision or early action candidate. Still, you can apply to schools during the regular decision period.

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Regular decision deadlines

  • Application deadline: Early January to mid-February

  • Admission decision: Mid-March to early April

  • Pro: More time to work on your application

  • Con: Less time to finalize your offer decision

Most students apply for college during the regular decision period. During this period, applications are due between early January and mid-February, depending on the school you’re applying to. You’ll typically receive your admission decisions between mid-March and early April and will accept or decline your offers by May 1.

The regular decision deadline is the latest application deadline, so you’ll have the most time to prepare your application materials compared to early applicant timelines and less time to finalize your offer decisions than you would if you had applied early action. As this is the final application window, there are no restrictions regarding the number of schools you may apply to during the regular decision period.

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Rolling admission deadlines

  • Application deadline: Varies

  • Admission decision: Within 4-6 weeks of submission

  • Pro: Receive your admission decision quicker than you typically would with other application periods

  • Con: May have a better chance of admission if you apply earlier in the application cycle

With rolling admission, admissions officers review applications as they receive them and send their decisions as soon as they complete their review, usually within four to six weeks of submission. If you are eager to know whether you’ll be accepted into a school, rolling admission tends to be the quickest application timeline.

Rolling admissions deadlines vary from school to school, ranging from December all the way to April. Some schools don’t have a deadline at all and continue reviewing applications until they’ve filled all the spots in their incoming class. Some schools also have a priority deadline, meaning they’ll consider students more seriously if they apply by a certain date.

You typically can apply for a school with rolling admissions after the priority deadline. However, applying for schools with rolling admissions early in the application cycle may be a good idea, as spots in their incoming class may fill quickly.

When is FAFSA due?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one common way for students in the United States to secure financial aid from the US Department of Education through grants, scholarships, work-study jobs, and federal student loans. The application form is typically available on October 1 and due on June 30 for the Fall admission cycle.

Read more: When Is FAFSA Due? Important 2022-2023 Deadlines

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Transfer deadlines

As a transfer student, you’ll go through an application process separate from the process for incoming first-year students. There are typically two different transfer admission deadlines each school year: one for the Spring semester and one for Fall.

For a Spring transfer, applications are often due in November or December, while Fall transfer deadlines may be closer to April or June. Some schools offer rolling admission for transfer students. Transfer deadlines can range greatly; it’s best to consult the admissions website of the specific school you’re hoping to transfer into to find out key dates.

Can you submit college applications after the deadline?

College admission offices typically enforce strict deadlines and will not accept late applications. If you are set on applying for college for a specific entrance period, it’s important to submit your applications by the deadline. (You can always submit your applications early!)

College application timelines tend to require planning ahead months or even a year in advance, which isn’t always ideal for people who cannot commit to a program that far in advance or want more immediate access to education. Here are some options to consider if college application deadlines have passed:

  • Public universities may have enrollment options closer to the start of the school year for in-state applicants. Reach out to your local public college admissions office to find out.

  • Community colleges often admit students closer to the start of classes, sometimes even admitting students up until the first day of class, if space permits. With community college, you can start your education immediately and apply to transfer into your school of choice during a later semester, or you can continue coursework at your community college to earn your associate degree and, at some schools, a bachelor’s degree.

  • Certificate programs may offer more flexible admission timelines and can enable you to study exactly the subjects you want to learn. These programs tend to be more targeted to a specific career path or knowledge base and may offer flexible options like virtual or asynchronous learning.

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