There are two main categories of admission options:
non-restrictive and restrictive.
Non-restrictive application plans do not restrict students from applying to other institutions. You’ll have until May 1 to consider your options and confirm enrollment. There are three application plans under non-restrictive:
• Regular Decision
• Rolling Admission
• Early Action—this is an “early” option
Regular Decision means that you turn in your application by the college’s deadline, and they let you know by a specified date.
For Rolling Admission, schools review applications as they’re submitted and make decisions throughout the admission cycle (usually within four to six weeks of submission of the application). It is usually wise to send your application as soon as possible since some colleges will fill their class by early winter.
With Early Action, you send your application by the early deadline and the college sends you its decision earlier. Some colleges do have additional restrictions on their early action programs, though, so make sure to read carefully the instructions from each college.
There are two types of restrictive application plans:
• Early Decision
• Restrictive Early Action
When you decide to apply Early Decision, you are committing yourself to going to that school. Early Decision is for those early-bird students who already have a clear first-choice college. If you’re still comparing colleges and don’t want to limit your choices yet, Early Decision is not for you. Why? Early Decision is a contract between you and the college. You agree that if the college accepts you, you’ll withdraw all other college applications and attend the early decision college. Because of this commitment, you can apply Early Decision to only one college.
The other restrictive option is Restrictive Early Action. This one means that you apply to your school of choice and get a decision early. Be aware, though, that some schools restrict applicants from applying to any other early plans at other schools. If you go this way, you’ll have until May 1 to confirm that you’ll be attending.
These early options can be confusing—some schools even have more than one of theses options—so talk to your guidance counselor if there’s anything you don’t understand.
Colleges respond to early applications in one of three ways: acceptance, rejection or holding applications over to regular decision.
Download NACAC's admission options poster.