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Admission Policies Explainer

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There are more than 3,000 colleges, but there are fewer than 10 different ways to apply to college. Each admission policy has pros and cons. Students need to do their homework to understand the options and ensure they make the right decisions.

  • Rolling Admission This is the most popular type of admission, and provides the most instant gratification. Students apply to a college and typically can hear back anywhere from 48 hours to 6 weeks. Rolling Admission does not require any commitment to attend until May 1, and students can apply to multiple colleges with Rolling Decision.
  • Regular Decision Typically, this means students will have to be patient and wait for an email or letter that will arrive sometime in late March or early April. Because the student must decide where to attend by May 1, these are nail biting decisions. Students have only 2-3 weeks to visit, research and make a decision.
  • Early Action Students need organization and time management skills for early action. Applications typically must be postmarked by November 1, or November 15. This means that everything really needs to be turned into the high school by mid-to-late October to ensure documentation will be mailed on time. The good news about Early Action is that students can apply early without signing a contract to attend if admitted. With Early Action students can hear about the decision within 4-6 weeks, but have until May 1 to accept or reject the offer. Students use Early Action because they are really interested in the college and want to share their enthusiasm with the college. This is definitely a way to show perceived interest.
  • Early Decision For students, this is the most difficult and often the most rewarding of the "early" options. Early Decision requires a parent signature, student signature, and high school counselor's signature because it is a binding decision. If admitted the student is obligated to attend the university. Sometimes students can be released from the commitment because of financial aid issues, but the school must release the student from the contract.
  • Other options include:
    • Direct Admit: Being admitted directly into the program of study.
    • Early Response: Students apply by a certain date, with transcript and school forms, and a decision is sent in six weeks. For some schools, this means that absolutely everything needs to be "in the office" by the deadline date.
    • Priority Deadline: Students applying by a certain date will be given equal consideration and get a response in the end of October.
    • Early Admission: High school students apply as juniors and are admitted before completing high school.

Finding which policy fits your needs is very personal. Be mindful that some of these policies are binding, or require being ready very early in the process. If you can get yourself there with a complete understanding of the policy, then applying early may enhance your admissions chances and save some stress.