Rolling Admission

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ED, EA, Regular, Rolling – Which Way Should You Apply?

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown College

With the launch of the Common Application on August 1st, the 2012-2013 college application season is upon us. If you’re not familiar with the Common Application (more commonly referred to as the Common App), here’s a nice little post from that will get you caught up.

Last week I talked about the different ways of applying to colleges. Your level of interest and your qualifications are what will help you decide which one is the way to go. For now, let’s talk about the differences and how they affect you.

Early Decision, also known as ED, is where you choose to apply anywhere from November 1st to December 1st, and can expect to hear a decision by December 15th. Some schools will offer two rounds of early decision where ED I applicants hear in December and ED II applicants, who will apply typically around the same time as regular decision candidates, will expect to hear in February.

Early decision can be a great idea if you know, without a doubt, that you are in love with everything a school has to offer, you know you can afford to attend that school and you are ready, willing and able to commit to that school. You’re all in with early decision and the risk level is significant if you haven’t done your homework ahead of time.

Some things to consider with early decision:

You’re allowed to apply early to ONE school only and, if accepted, that decision is binding. That’s it. There’s no backing out of an early decision acceptance. This is why your love for the school must be true – you won’t have a financial aid award yet and you will have to contact the other schools at which you submitted regular applications and notify them that you are withdrawing those applications immediately. Some students will point to higher acceptance rates to justify their choice to apply early – for this past year, the regular acceptance rate at Duke was 11% while the early acceptance rate was 25%; for Johns Hopkins the rates were 16% and 38% respectively. While the acceptance rates are typically higher, the talent pool is also that much more competitive. Just spend a few minutes on College Confidential and search for “early decision” to tap into the mania.

Early Action, or EA, is where applicants complete applications in November or December and expect to hear an answer by the start of the New Year. Early action applicants can be accepted, denied or deferred to the regular decision round of applications. Unlike early decision, early action applicants are not bound to their acceptance and have the choice to commit by the May 1st deadline or attend another school altogether.

There are variations of early action policies so it is important to check with each school first. Some schools are considered single choice early action meaning that they will not allow applicants to apply to any other schools early. Other schools are considered unrestricted and allow applicants to apply early decision or early action to any number of schools.

Early action is great because you have the benefit of applying early and showing a school that you are a very interested applicant while also keeping your options open.

Regular Decision is the process by which you apply by each college’s published deadline which is usually around January 1st. Once the application and materials have been sent, applicants can expect to hear a decision by April 1st. Regular decision applicants can be admitted, denied or placed on a waiting list. More on waiting lists another day.

Regular decision is the vanilla of the application world. It’s plain and simple and doesn’t come with any surprises. Well, that’s not entirely true. Students who choose not to pay attention to what a school is looking for in its applicants can often be met with very disappointing surprises. 

Rolling Admission is where students are admitted on an ongoing, or rolling, basis. The schools begin making decisions in the early fall and continue until they have met their requirements for the new freshman class. Rolling admission provides students with a long period of time in which they can apply – often several months. Colleges may accept or reject an applicant right away, or they may hold off for a period time in order to compare him or her to other applicants. Depending on how strong or weak of an applicant they are, students may also find themselves on the waiting list.

There are several pros to rolling admission. Applicants can apply as soon as the application season is open and, therefore, demonstrate their interest to a school. Remember, colleges are looking for students who are more likely to enroll. Applying early on is a great way to show that you are that student. Because decisions are made on an ongoing basis, the earlier you apply, the earlier you can expect to hear a decision. It can feel great to get that first acceptance out of the way and may just help you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends that much more.

For the procrastinators, rolling admission is great because you can apply when you’re ready. I’m not saying you should work at a snail’s pace, but let’s be honest – some of you just do. Maybe you want to wait for first semester grades before you apply because you know you have some strong grades coming. Maybe your SAT scores were low and you wanted to take them again in December or January. Maybe you just happened to come upon a school mid-year that you hadn’t thought of before and now want to apply – for any of these reasons and more, schools with rolling admissions grant you the opportunity to apply later in your senior year.

Now, for every pro of rolling admission there are also cons. Just because decisions are rendered on a rolling basis, doesn’t mean everyone will hear right away. If your application isn’t the strongest, you could end up waiting several weeks or more before you hear back. This can get very frustrating when your friends hear back from the same school and you’re stuck waiting and wondering. Schools with rolling admission will start awarding aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Funds are limited so if you apply too late, your financial aid award may not be very helpful. Housing could also be an issue if you apply too late.

As with anything in the college application process, do your homework early on. Check out the admissions webpage for any schools you are interested to find out which types of applications they offer.

If you have any questions or comments about the types of applications available to you and which one might be the best way for you to go, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you!

You can also email me directly at

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Must Have Items On Your College List – Part II

Two weeks ago, I talked about how to build a great college list and then last week I introduced the first four of eight “must-haves” you should consider when creating a college list. Today, in Part II, I’m going to cover types of admission, chance of admission, graduation rates and cost.

Types of admission
There are several types of admission and how much you love a school will often dictate how you end up applying. Here’s a rundown of the major types of admission to consider:

1. Regular decision is the process by which you apply by each college’s published deadlines. By doing so, you will receive an admissions decision by April 1st though there is no obligation to commit until the May 1st response deadline.

2. Early decision, also known as ED is where you can apply early and receive your decision early – typically by mid-December. The price for this early decision is that you commit to attending the college and agree to withdraw all other applications. You can only apply ED to one school and, since this is a binding acceptance, you better know that this school is the right one for you on all fronts.

3. Early action, or EA, also allows you to apply early though, unlike with ED, you are under no obligation to accept the offer of admission. You can submit other applications, wait for their responses and then make a decision by May 1st. Essentially, you can play the field. There are variations of EA policies, so be sure to check with each school individually on their restrictions.

4. Rolling admissions is where students are admitted on a regular, or rolling, basis. The schools will make decisions until they have met their requirements for the new freshman class.

We’ll talk more about these different types of admission in a week or two.

Chance of admission

It’s important to get a feel for your chance of admission so that you have appropriate expectations about each school before you add it to you list.

That’s right. BEFORE.

Do your research by using websites like the College Board’s Big Future to understand whether or not you are a competitive applicant when compared to students who have previously been admitted. You know Harvard and Yale are a reach for just about everyone, but do you know if Quinnipiac is a reach? By selecting the SAT & ACT Scores tab on the Applying section, you would see that the middle 50% of admitted and enrolled students score within 520-590 on the Critical Reading, 540-610 on the MATH and 540-610 on the Writing. Under the Academics tab, you can compare your high school courses against the courses Quinnipiac expects to see from its applicants. Now, where do you stack up and what do you think of your chances?

Graduation rates

College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, right? Well, for the most part, graduation rates are actually quoted for six years instead of four. So, if you’re planning a budget based on four years’ worth of tuition and fees, you want to know that the schools you are adding to your college list can actually help you accomplish this. Want to know the four, five or six-year graduation rates for Boston College? You can find them at College Results Online. Want to know how Boston College’s peer institutions fare in the graduation rate category? You can find that information by simply clicking on the Similar Colleges tab.


There’s a lot to say about cost and the factors that go into it, but for today I want to talk about understanding that the price in the window, is not necessarily the price you end up paying.

Tuition and fees have risen over 400% since the early 80’s. But like everything in your college search, doing some homework ahead of time can really help.

What’s important to understand is that a lot of schools discount their tuition– especially private schools. This adjusted cost is called net price and it can, and will, be different for families based on the qualifications of each applicant, how much money a school typically throws at its new students and your EFC. EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and it is the amount a college will expect you to contribute towards your cost. The higher your EFC, the more you will be expected to contribute and the less aid you can expect to receive. Since last fall, colleges have been required to host net price calculators somewhere on their website. You can use the calculators to enter your personal information and get an idea of what the net price might be for you.

The calculators are far from perfect, but if a school’s cost is going to be too much for you, it’s always better to be disappointed before you apply rather than after you have been accepted.

If you have any questions about building a great college list, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you!

You can also email me directly at


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