Applying Early? It’s a Good Plan but Read the Small Print

Early Policies can maximize a student’s chances of getting into a school — but you need to understand the details.


Early Decision. Early Action. Single-Choice Early Action. Regular Decision.


The names sound similar, but there are huge differences.


Some early application policies are binding.  This means a student who gets accepted early must commit to the school. Other early policies do not require commitment from an accepted student. Then there are additional layers which may add to the confusion, but don’t worry, we simplify them below.


Keep in mind, an increasing number of schools have restrictions in their Early Action policies. You do not want to get caught violating these policies, so be sure to read and understand the policies of each school – even the tiny print.


Here is a quick reference list of the main types of early policies. Double check each school’s admission policies and application deadlines, as can they vary year to year.


Types of Applications &Typical Deadline Restrictions


Rolling Admissions

September onward


Colleges accept applications throughout the year and eligible students get admitted to the school for as long as spaces are available. Rolling admission applicants are often notified of their acceptance or rejection within a few weeks of applying. Students may apply to more than one college. Applying early improves a student’s chance of being accepted


Early Action

Late October to late November

Early action is not binding meaning students can apply early to other schools. Students who are not accepted early are still considered for admission with the regular admission pool.


Restrictive Early Action

November 1

Students cannot apply to more than one Early Action program. School policies differ on whether you can concurrently apply to Early Decision at another school.


Single-Choice Early Action

November 1

Students cannot apply early to other schools. In other words, a student cannot apply Early Action to one school and Early Decision to another.


Early Decision

Mid-October to mid-November

Students can apply early to only one college. Binding means that a student agrees to attend the college if it accepts them and offers adequate financial aid. Students accepted via Early Decision must withdraw all other applications. Students who aren’t accepted early are still considered with the regular applicant pool.
Early Decision II

January 1 or January 15


This is similar to Early Decision but with a later deadline. The acceptance rate for Early Decision is generally higher than it is for regular admissions regardless of whether the deadline is earlier or later.


Regular Decision/ Open Admissions

December 15 – January 1


Most students apply for regular decision.


Early Notification/Early Evaluation

This option is offered to applicants by a limited number of selective institutions.  It is designed to give students an idea of their chances for admission. This is not an admission plan, nor is it an offer of admission.


International College Counselors recommends students apply with an early strategy. 


INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS:  Many schools only allow U.S. students apply early. International students may need to apply regular admissions.

For more information on Early Action, Early Decision and which program is right for your student, clients of International College Counselors should contact one of our expert college advisors.


This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 200 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.