When Is the Best Time to Submit a College Application?

Rolling, Early Action, and Regular Decision

Admit Guru
The College Admit Guru
5 min readJan 20, 2021


2020 has been a year of unprecedented global transformations, no doubt. This, notwithstanding, ought not to be an interruption to you. As a high school student, you may not understand the disappointment one feels when rejected by a college. Most application rejections occur as a result of applying under the wrong application pool. Nevertheless, this is avoidable if you apply for colleges at the perfect time.

When is the right time to submit your college applications?

Knowing the best time to apply to a college is quite important to avoid sending in applications past the deadline; you stand a better chance of gaining your admission if you apply at the right time. Bearing in mind that some schools have the liberty to set their own schedules, a few colleges set their deadlines in late-winter or early spring. This is why many admission experts recommend students begin their application at least by the start of their senior year in high school.

“I recommend that students start making a list of (potential colleges) and getting organized with the assistance of their school counselors and school community during that junior year of high school,” says Colleen Newman, executive director of admissions at the University of Colorado — Boulder.

Rolling Admissions

NACAC defines this as when a student can “apply whenever after a college starts accepting applications until a final shutting date, which might be as late as the beginning of the term for which they are applying.” If a college is offering rolling admissions, you need to present your application as quickly as time permits in your senior year. A rolling admissions application can start at any time and stretch through a student’s senior year- that can mean sending in your application as early as August or September.

The sooner you get your application in, the better possibility you have of being admitted. Why? Well, because these colleges make decisions on a “rolling” basis. As applications are being submitted, they are being screened and decisions get rolled out. In a matter of a couple of days or weeks, students will promptly hear back from that college with their decision. These colleges typically have a lot of room in their incoming fall freshman class. However, as the year goes on and spaces are filled, it will be harder to be admitted. We urge students to apply as early as possible for these colleges because as decisions are released, spots may top off in that incoming class.

Early Action and Early Decision

Early action and early decision applications are due well before the New Year- usually in the fall, as most colleges screen regular applications between January through March. Presenting your application before an early decision or early action cutoff time is a smart thought, yet it doesn’t mean your application will get reviewed sooner. With a greater number of components required for an application compared to rolling admissions colleges, it can take at least half a month for everything to be received by the admissions board. These can include test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters, and more. There are few advantages of presenting an application long before the cutoff time for early decision and early action:

  • It’s generally more efficient to apply a couple of days ahead of time, as most students delay until the tail end of the application due date to submit it; this puts the framework of the site at risk of shutting down or even crashing.
  • It will alleviate the student’s stress level to know that their application has been submitted.
  • They might have a better shot of getting an alumni interview. Alumni interviews are frequently offered when the student applies.

Early decision deadlines for most colleges are usually in November. You should ensure you have submitted all prerequisites by that time. It is ideal to begin applying to college the summer before senior year. This will give you a sufficient amount of time to correct issues and avoid rushing. However, if a student submits their application well before the deadline and something changes, like a class, they must promptly update the college application. Try to avoid updating your application frequently, so the admission officer processing your application will not get irritated by the regular modifications to your application.

Regular Decision

At almost every college, admissions officers won’t begin screening regular decision applications until they finalize all decisions for early decision and/or early action cases. Additionally, they won’t examine any applications over the special seasons; they will wait until they get back from the break to plunge into regular decision applications.

Most regular decision deadlines are usually fixed after a university-wide winter break, so submitting applications well before the regular decision deadline has the same benefits as it does with early decision and early action. But again, if anything changes after the students submit their application, they need to be diligent and judicious about updating the college. If a student is admitted to the early decision program (or chooses to focus on one of their early action or rolling admissions colleges), they should pull out their regular decision applications — meaning they will lose the application fee they paid.

A late start could lead to a substandard application and harm their admissions odds; therefore, I suggest students get to work over the summer of their senior year, as materials such as standardized test scores and letters of recommendation typically later in the year. Students should keep track of significant deadlines for college, scholarships, and financial aid applications as well as plan out campus visits through an online calendar or a spreadsheet.

Summer is a golden opportunity to get coordinated and start on these materials, as students don’t have high school eating up valuable time. I most certainly do not advise waiting till deadlines. Yet, some students do that; however, it’s not in your best interest to plunk down two days before a deadline and attempt to construct a quality application.

At long last, you should give yourself extra time to submit something as significant as your college application. If something goes wrong amid the submission process, don’t worry- you can get it resolved quickly. While applying from the get-go in your senior year can help with rolling admissions programs, it doesn’t give students similar advantages in the early decision, early action, and regular decision pools. Be that as it may, it is always safe to start early.

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