Guide to US Applications • Undergraduate

US Undergraduate Application Deadlines: All You Need to Know

POSTED ON 09/01/2023 BY The Red Pen

Person marking an application deadline

When it comes to the final submission of your applications to US colleges, January 1 is the first thing that comes to mind. Most students rush to complete applications in the last week of the year because several deadlines fall on this day. After that, they wait for April 1, when colleges declare their results. But what if we told you that universities provide several submission opportunities, which can bring you good news long before March? 

Early Decision (ED) deadlines

Colleges that offer Early Decision deadlines (not all do!) invite you to apply to them as your first choice, with a binding agreement to attend if they admit you. To take advantage of this opportunity, you, your parents and school counsellors must sign an agreement before applying through the ED programme. Leykia Nulan, Dean of Admission at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, says, “If you apply to a school Early Decision and you’re admitted, you’re committing to attending that institution.” The binding nature of this deadline prevents you from rejecting the offer if accepted, and you must withdraw applications from all other colleges. In most cases, colleges will not offer admission if your application indicates financial need and the college cannot meet that need. So, consider ED only if the college ranks high on your list and you’ve evaluated the financial implications. There are two ED deadlines: 

1) ED I: 

The first ED deadline falls between October and November; results are declared by mid-December. You can enjoy the rest of high school if your ED I college accepts you. 

Advantages of applying ED I

  • ED I has a smaller applicant pool, which reduces the competition. 
  • The acceptance rate of selective colleges is two to three times higher in the ED round. Northwestern University’s overall acceptance rate is only 7.2 percent, but it accepts half of its class through ED. Barnard College’s acceptance rate is eight percent, but its ED acceptance rate almost triples at 26 percent. Admitting a higher percentage from the ED I applicant pool drives down the regular decision admission rate. Many selective schools fill close to half their spots with Early Decision applicants. 
  • ED I lets you demonstrate your interest in attending a college, which often works in your favour. 
  • You’ll hear back about your application earlier than ED II or RD applicants.

Disadvantages of applying ED I: 

  • If you’re applying ED I, you must prepare a robust application, which includes completing your Common App and supplemental essays in the summer. 
  • You must also take your Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) exams early, which means preparing months in advance—sometimes even a year. If you are applying for ED I, take the SAT online test as early as possible.
  • Depending on your school calendar, the ED I deadline may arrive before your grade 12 academic results. Therefore, admissions officers will base their decisions on your mid-term or predicted grades sent by your high school. 
  • If accepted in ED 1, you must withdraw all applications and attend the college that has granted you admission. This means you cannot compare admission or financial aid offers that may come from Regular Decision applications. 

Here are some institutions that accept ED I applications: 

ED I Universities Deadlines
Barnard CollegeNovember 1 
Boston UniversityNovember 1 
Brown UniversityNovember 1 
Carnegie Mellon UniversityNovember 1 
Claremont Mckenna CollegeNovember 1 
Cornell UniversityNovember 1 
Dartmouth CollegeNovember 1 
Duke UniversityNovember 1 
Emory UniversityNovember 1 
Hamilton CollegeNovember 15 
Johns Hopkins UniversityNovember 1 
Mount Holyoke College November 15
New York UniversityNovember 1 
Northwestern UniversityNovember 1 
Pomona CollegeNovember 15 
Smith College November 15 
Tufts UniversityNovember 1 
University of Chicago November 1 
University of PennsylvaniaNovember 1 
Vassar CollegeNovember 15 
Wellesley CollegeNovember 1 

2) ED II: 

If you need more time to improve your application or have other factors like a sports schedule or poor first-quarter grades, ED II is your second chance at a binding decision application. You can also use this deadline to apply to your second-choice college if you aren’t admitted to your first-choice in ED I. The submission deadline for ED II falls between December and January, with colleges announcing results in mid-February. Remember that if your application to a college in ED I or ED II  is unsuccessful, you cannot apply again to the same college in the same admission cycle. 

Advantages of applying ED II

  • Fewer students apply ED II than Regular Decision, so competition is less intense. 
  • The ED II application deadline is often close to the Regular Decision deadline, so you won’t necessarily have to prepare your application early. 
  • ED II gives you enough time to improve your scores, secure letters of recommendation and complete your essays. It also lets you showcase your most recent accomplishments to the college.
  • Your decision will arrive one to two months earlier than Regular Decision notifications.
  • ED II applicants have the edge over Regular Decision applicants with similar credentials because they demonstrate interest and make a binding commitment. 
  • ED II acceptance rates are higher than Regular Decisions.

Disadvantages of applying ED 

  • Your second top-choice college may not have an ED II deadline. 
  • As compared to ED I, fewer colleges offer ED II. 

Here are some of the institutions that let you apply ED II:

ED II Universities Deadlines
Bates CollegeJanuary 1
Bryant UniversityJanuary 15
Boston UniversityJanuary 4
Carnegie MellonJanuary 3
Claremont McKenna January 10
Colby CollegeJanuary 1
Colgate UniversityJanuary 15
College of WoosterJanuary 15
Emory University January 1
Franklin and Marshall CollegeJanuary 15
George Washington UniversityJanuary 5
Johns Hopkins UniversityJanuary 2
Macalester CollegeJanuary 1
Middlebury CollegeJanuary 1
Mount Holyoke CollegeJanuary 3
New York UniversityJanuary  1
Pomona CollegeJanuary 1
Sarah Lawrence CollegeJanuary 2
Swarthmore CollegeJanuary 1
Trinity CollegeJanuary 1
Tufts UniversityJanuary 1
University of ChicagoJanuary 1
University of RichmondJanuary 15
Vanderbilt UniversityJanuary 1
Vassar CollegeJanuary 1
Wellesley CollegeJanuary 1
Wesleyan UniversityJanuary 1

Strategies for applying ED I and ED II 

  • You should apply ED I or ED II if you are sure about your choices and are happy to attend if admitted. 
  • Before applying in the ED rounds, take a realistic look at your scores. If you have an academic profile that falls within the range of the college’s previous year’s student profile, send your application. 
  • Don’t waste your ED advantage on a college where your academic scores don’t meet the institution’s basic requirements. 
  • If your top-choice college only offers RD or EA deadlines, skip ED. 
  • Carefully evaluate the financial implications of an ED application based on your situation.  

Early Action (EA) deadlines

The Early Action (EA) deadline allows you to submit applications and receive decision notifications earlier without a binding agreement to attend. Submission deadlines are usually around November 1. By mid-January, most colleges announce their intake decisions. Since EA isn’t binding, you don’t have to rush to reply. You have until the national response deadline on May 1 to inform the college whether you’ll attend. This way, you can weigh your options and compare financial aid offered by other colleges. There are two EA deadlines: 

Unrestricted Early Action (EA)

EA allows you to apply to several colleges. The most significant benefit of EA is that since you can apply to more than one college, you increase your chances of getting multiple offers, which helps you make an informed decision earlier in the process. 

Here are some institutions that accept EA:  

EA Universities Deadlines
Babson CollegeNovember 1
Berklee College of MusicNovember 1
Bryant UniversityNovember 1
California Institute of TechnologyNovember 1
Case Western Reserve UniversityNovember 1
Chapman UniversityNovember 1
Emerson CollegeNovember 1
Fordham UniversityNovember 1
George Mason UniversityNovember 1
Georgia Institute of TechnologyNovember 1
Hofstra UniversityNovember 15
Loyola Marymount UniversityNovember 1
Miami UniversityDecember 1
Michigan State UniversityNovember 1
Northeastern UniversityNovember 1
Parsons School of Design (The New School)November 01
Purdue UniversityNovember 1
Rutgers—New BrunswickNovember 1
Santa Clara UniversityNovember 1
Tulane UniversityNovember 15
University of Illinois at Urbana ChampaignNovember 1
University of MarylandNovember 1
University of Massachusetts AmherstNovember 5
University of MichiganNovember 1
University of Minnesota—Twin CitiesNovember 1
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillOctober 15
University of Notre DameNovember 1
University of San FranciscoNovember 1
University of VirginiaNovember 1
University of Wisconsin—MadisonNovember 1
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteNovember 1

Restricted Early Action (REA) or Single Choice Early Action (SCEA)

REA/SCEA is a non-binding deadline that allows you to apply to only one college in the early application rounds. Although not obligated to attend, schools that accept REA/SCEA applications may ask you to sign a form stating that they will not apply to other early admissions programmes. 

Here are some of the institutions that let you apply REA/SCEA:

REA UniversitiesDeadlines
Georgetown UniversityNovember 1 
Harvard UniversityNovember 1 
Stanford UniversityNovember 1 
University of Notre DameNovember 1 
Yale UniversityNovember 1 

Advantages of applying EA: 

  • EA is non-binding, meaning you are not obligated to attend the college that offers you a spot. 
  • You will know if colleges accept you sooner, and this helps you strategise your applications for regular decisions. 
  • You only have to declare your decision in May, which allows you to keep your options open and compare financial aid offers from other universities. 
  • You have a higher chance of being considered for merit aid. For example, if you apply by November, Purdue University will automatically consider university-wide merit scholarships. In contrast, the University of Richmond will consider all applicants who apply before December for merit aid. 

Strategies for applying EA

  • Consider applying EA only to high-target choices on your college list. Since you will receive decisions early, you may not need to apply to the safety schools you’ve listed. 
  • Early deadlines offer an added advantage to legacy applicants, don’t squander this opportunity. 
  • Irrespective of whether you choose EA or SCEA, continue working on Regular Decision applications to offset deferrals or denials. 

Regular Decision (RD) deadline

RD is the most common college application deadline. RD submissions are on or around January 1, except for a few colleges, with admission notifications in March. Colleges typically begin the review process after receiving all applications. It is a non-binding deadline that allows you to send applications to several schools and is best for students who require more time to refine their applications or improve their scores.

Most colleges offer RD. Below are the deadlines for popular choices: 

RD Universities Deadlines
Boston UniversityJanuary 1
Brown UniversityJanuary 5
Carnegie MellonJanuary 3
Case Western Reserve UniversityJanuary 15
Cornell UniversityJanuary 2
Emory UniversityJanuary 1
New York UniversityJanuary 5
Northeastern UniversityJanuary 1
Purdue UniversityJanuary 15
Tufts UniversityJanuary 4
University of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignJanuary 5
University of CaliforniaNovember 30
University of MichiganFebruary 1
University of PennsylvaniaJanuary 5
University of Washington SeattleNovember 15
University of Wisconsin MadisonJanuary 15

Strategies for applying RD

  • Use the RD option to apply to safety schools from your college list. These are colleges where you are most likely to be admitted because your academic scores exceed their averages. 
  • Compare the ED/EA admit rates with those of RD. If the margin of difference is small, consider applying in the RD round. 

Rolling Admissions

Rolling Admissions may seem similar to RD, but there is a difference. Colleges that use this process do not wait for the final deadline to begin evaluating applications. Instead, they review applications on a rolling basis against fixed criteria. These evaluations continue until the college fills all seats. Rolling Admissions are non-binding, and you can apply to several colleges simultaneously. Should more than one college offer you admission, you can choose the one that appeals to you most. The deadlines for rolling admissions are college-specific. While some universities accept applications throughout the year, others will have a specific admission window. 

Below are a few colleges with their Rolling Admissions: 

Rolling Admissions Universities Deadlines
Adelphi UniversityMay 1 – Priority filling
Arizona State UniversityMay 1
Indiana University BloomingtonFebruary 1 (After this, applications are considered on available slots and a case-by-case basis.
Michigan State UniversityAfter February 1
Ohio UniversityJune 15
Penn State UniversityFeb 1 – Priority filling June 15 – Final filling
Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ)Dec 1 – Priority filling 
University at Buffalo—SUNYFebruary 1 (Submissions for Fall are accepted after this until capacity is reached)
University of DelawareJanuary 15
University of PittsburghNo set deadline

Strategies for Rolling Admissions

  • The rolling admission process is quick. The earlier you apply, the sooner you get your answer, which could be within 4-6 weeks of submitting your application. 
  • When you’re on the early side of the admission window, you have a higher chance of securing admission because colleges still have their whole incoming class to fill and won’t compare you to accepted students. Those who apply later are at a disadvantage because fewer seats are available. 
  • Use Rolling Admissions to space out your application load. Instead of submitting all your applications in January, you can submit a few in the early Fall and then work on more in the following months. 

Some colleges will accept your application, no matter the deadline, while others may not. The key here is to select your universities wisely and understand the best time to submit your application. You may read our blog on early application myths and our ultimate guide to US undergraduate courses. If you’re looking for more information or guidance on any aspect of your undergraduate application, please get in touch with us.