Applying Early

Should a student apply early?

More and more students are answering this question with a “yes.” There is a perception, sometimes accurate, that a student who applies early has a slightly higher chance of admission. Some students also want to have a decision in their hands earlier than April. Applying early should not be taken lightly. Some early application decisions represent binding commitments; others do not. It is important to understand the language of early applications before making choices.

Types of Early Applications

Early DecisionSchools offer one or more specific deadlines for Early Decision applications. The student agrees, if accepted, to attend that school. An Early Decision application is a commitment, so the student can only have one active Early Decision application at a time. However, if not admitted in first round Early Decision, the student can opt to apply Early Decision II to a different school if it offers second round Early Decision (typically in January). 

This choice is only good for students who are absolutely certain that they want to attend a particular school.
Early ActionSchools offer an early deadline for applications. Acceptances from schools are not binding for the student. 

Students may apply to additional schools and do not need to make a commitment until May 1.
Single Choice Early Action/
Restrictive Early Action
Schools offer an early deadline for applications. Students may not apply early to any other private institutions. 

Students do not need to make a commitment until May 1.

Schools review applications as they are received and send out decisions as they are made. Students may apply to additional schools and do not need to make a commitment until May 1.

Because these schools often make admissions and financial aid decisions on a first-come, first-served basis, it is usually to the student’s advantage to apply to schools with Rolling admissions policies as early as possible.
PriorityDifferent schools may use this term differently, but it often suggests that only students applying under the earliest deadline will be given maximum consideration for admission, special programs, scholarships, and housing. Students planning to apply to the University of Maryland, College Park should plan to apply using their November 1 priority deadline.