College Admissions Vocabulary: How You Apply

Are you ever confused by words and terms you hear on a college visit or that writers use in articles about college admission? Read on to find explanations and definitions.

Early Decision Early Decision is an application submitted by a student who holds a strong preference for a specific college above all others. At most colleges that offer ED, the decision is binding, meaning that if accepted, the student will enroll. All other applications must be withdrawn upon acceptance at the ED college. Obviously, a student can only apply to one college Early Decision.

Deadlines for Early Decision are usually between November 1st December 1st. Once all material has been received the applications are read. Decisions are sent out in 4-6 weeks fr the deadline and can be an acceptance, a denial or deferral which is putting the application into the regular decision round.

Early Decision is an advantage for the college because they know that students who are admitted will come, ie, seats that are guaranteed to be filled. ED is an advantage for the student who no longer has to wait for acceptances.

For students who are applying for financial aid, Early Decision is a disadvantage because they are committed to a college without seeing the aid package. If the aid doesn’t meet their needs or ability to pay, they don’t have other schools waiting for them.

Early Action Early Action also shows a preference for a particular college by asking for an answer quickly. EA deadlines are usually 11/1 or 11/15 if the college does not also have an ED option. When all the supporting documentation has arrived, the application is read and a decision made. The response can be acceptance, denial or deferring the application to the regular decision pool. Usually, the student is notified in 4-6 weeks. Early Action is non-binding so a student can apply to more than on college EA. They must notify the college that they will attend by May 1.

Regular Decision is when the most applications are read. Students not choosing to apply Early Decision or Early Action apply in this group. With part of the class filled students considered to be a member of a group that is under-represented in the class may be given preference. For example, women applying to engineering, men where a large cohort of women has been admitted, an athlete playing a less popular sport, someone applying to a new major, a student from an under-represented geographical region. At most colleges the class is filled largely from among the regular decision applicants. Decisions are either accept, deny or Wait List.

The Wait List is a holding place to see how many students send in a deposit by May 1. Should you be wait listed you have the option to accept admission to any other college. If there are unfilled spots in the class, some students on the wait list are notified of admission.

Rolling Admission is the plan under which applications are read as soon as all supporting documents have been received. Students usually receive the decision within 6 weeks of a completed submission.

Deadline Reading is used by a few colleges who like to look at all the applicants at the same time. The deadline for applying is typically in January. When all applications are complete, they are read and discussed by admissions officers and decisions are sent out to all students at the same time, by April 15th at the latest.

No matter which decision protocol you choose, be aware of deadlines. All documentation must arrive by that date to be considered. Incomplete early applications usually move to the regular decision pool. You can check you application online to see when scores and your high school packet arrive. It’s your responsibility to make certain that it is complete.

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Good luck!

Access College and Career Consultants help students and families through the maze of college search, applications, essays and more. Call/text 610-212-6679 or email to discuss how we can help you navigate the college process.

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