College applications may be submitted directly to the institution via the college’s website or through the Common App. The Common App is an undergraduate college admission application that students may use to apply to any of more than 800 member colleges and universities. To check if a school uses Common App, visit https://www.commonapp.org/explore/. If a school is not listed on Common App, visit the admissions page of the school’s website to complete their application.
Be sure to check each college’s website or call the admissions office to verify application deadlines and requirements. In general, many colleges will require the following documents to consider your application complete:
- Application to the college through Common App or through the college website
- Official high school transcripts (requested by student through Naviance, tutorial found here)
- Letters of recommendation (requested by student through Naviance, tutorial found here)
- Official SAT/ACT scores sent through CollegeBoard or ACT (May be optional, but varies by college. Be sure to verify if the school is test-optional.)
- College essay/personal statement (Essay topics may vary by college. Here are the Common App essay prompts.)
- Resume/activity sheet (May be optional, but varies by college)
Admission Deadlines Definitions
Early Decision (you are only allowed to apply to 1 school using early decision):
Send everything in by an early deadline and you get an early response. The catch is that if the answer is yes, you must attend that school. It is a binding commitment. This happens before you get a chance to evaluate the decisions and financial aid offers of your other schools! Do not apply ED unless you have a realistic idea of how much it might cost and how to finance it (use the college’s financial aid estimator and talk to the Financial Aid Department).
Send all required application materials in by an early deadline (generally around November/December) and you will get an early response. You may also be considered a priority applicant for scholarships. While it may not offer a higher acceptance rate, EA is non-binding. That means you still get until May 1 to evaluate that school’s financial aid offer as well as compare offers from all the other schools on your list before making your final choice!
The vast majority of students who apply to a given institution will do so through Regular Decision, and they can apply Regular Decision to as many schools as they would like. While the application submission deadlines will vary between institutions, Regular Decision deadlines typically fall in early January, and offers of admission are sent out in late March or early April. These students will have until May 1 to either accept or decline their offers.
An admission policy of considering each application as soon as all required information (such as high school transcripts and test scores) has been received, rather than setting an application deadline and reviewing applications in a batch. This means that students may be able to apply after ED, EA, and regular decision deadlines have passed. However, it is always better to apply as early as possible!