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Is There an Advantage to Submitting College Applications Early?

Nov 27, 2020

The first round of early application deadlines has passed, and final deadlines for Regular Decision and Early Decision II are coming up shortly. You might be wondering how you can maximize these final days and weeks in order to put your best foot forward when the clock strikes midnight and time’s up. You may also be wondering if it is helpful to submit your Regular Decision or Early Decision II application early.

To clarify, we are not referring to either Early Action or Early Decision I applications which allow students to apply to their first choice colleges on an early timeline. Similar to EDI, ED II applications are binding. Students may only apply EDII to one school. The EDII deadline is the same as the regular decision deadline for most schools. Applying to colleges offering ED II applications, similar to ED I, often increases a student’s shot at admissions given ED II is binding.

Applying to regular decision schools before the deadline normally has no impact on your chances of being accepted. While there isn’t a distinct advantage to submitting your application early for admissions, there are some advantages to submitting ahead of your schools’ deadline.

Merit Scholarships  

If you are hoping to earn merit scholarships, you will likely need to submit your application before the Regular Decision deadline in January, as some schools have merit scholarship application deadlines.

Schools such as Vanderbilt and BU require you to submit your application first, and then apply for a merit scholarship through a separate application. Some schools’ merit scholarship applications are due on December 1. The Regular Decision deadline for Vanderbilt is January 1, however, you want to submit your application well before the merit scholarship deadline in December. This will also allow you to manage your time and to complete the merit scholarship application on time.

If you are eligible and want to apply for merit scholarships, you’re likely going to need to submit your application before the school’s Regular Decision deadline. Requirements and submission processes tend to vary by school, so be sure to research each school on your college list well in advance to make sure that you don’t miss any merit scholarship deadlines.

Rolling Admissions

Some schools offer rolling admissions, which means that applications are reviewed as they are received. This window usually opens up in the fall and lasts through the spring, or until all spots for the upcoming class have been filled. This means that you may hear back from a school with rolling admissions earlier than from schools with set application and notification deadlines.

While rolling admission schools will accept your application throughout the year, applying early takes the pressure off the possibility that the college’s window will be closed as all spots have been filled. Typically, you’ll hear back between four and eight weeks after you apply, if not sooner.

Some popular schools with rolling admissions include Arizona State University, Indiana University, Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, and Fairleigh Dickinson, University.

Late November and December Deadlines

While the majority of regular decision deadlines fall on January 1st or later, some schools, such as Rutgers, have December 1st deadlines for applying regular decision. The UC schools have a November 30th deadline. These are hard deadlines. Other schools such as Sewanee and Centre College also have December 1st deadlines for Early Action applications. This means that you will likely hear back from these schools earlier than from schools with January application deadlines.

Penn State has a rolling admissions process that begins accepting applications after December 1. Students applying early have the best chance of admission.

Take some time well in advance to research each school on your college list’s regular decision application deadline to make sure you don’t miss any regular decision deadlines.

Uploading and submitting take time

Computer glitches, websites crashing due to lots of student traffic, last-minute grammatical errors and other setbacks are common when submitting your application. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit.  Submitting your applications early will keep your stress level manageable.

We recommend that you complete and submit your applications at least three days before the final regular application deadline. This means completing your applications with final essay edits and making any final edits to your  Activities List and Common App information. Then, when you’re ready to finally submit, you’ll be able to relax and pat yourself on the back knowing you don’t have to deal with any last minute stress.


Submitting your regular decision college applications early won’t necessarily give you a distinct advantage like applying Early Decision or Early Action will. In some cases, such as with rolling admissions and merit scholarship programs, submitting early is necessary. Even if submitting early doesn’t give you an admissions advantage, there are positives that come with submitting your application early, like putting any last-minute stress behind you by being organized and leaving yourself time to make final edits.

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