College Admissions Policies
College admissions policies vary greatly from one institution to another. Policies generally reflect the philosophy of the institution: what they deem to be important. For example, schools that place less emphasis on the importance of standardized college entrance exams as a predictor of academic success may have test optional policies for college admissions. Schools that practice holistic review of applicants - going beyond numerical factors such as grade point average (GPA) and class rank - may place considerably more emphasis upon factors such as extracurricular involvement, leadership skills and personal character. Whatever the particular philosophy and policy of the nearly 4000 colleges and universities in the United States, virtually all agree that GPA and strength of academic curriculum weigh heavily in the admissions process.
Because policies and practices differ from school to school, applicants should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the policies of the colleges/universities to which they plan to apply. The admissions link on the college website is the best place to find this information.
Most colleges and universities offer a number of different options for applying to their school. Common options for applying to colleges/universities include Regular Decision, Rolling Admission, Early Action and Early Decision. Students applying Regular Decision typically have deadlines of January or February with notification of decision generally occurring by early April. Applicants are admitted, denied, or placed on a wait list.
Rolling Admission has no specific deadline. Applications are submitted for review when complete, and decisions are often made within a few weeks. Students applying to schools with a rolling admission process are wise to get their application in early as decisions are made on a rolling basis until all openings are filled.
Early Action allows a student to apply early, typically with an early or mid-November deadline. Decisions regarding admission are usually made by mid to late December, with applicants being admitted, denied or deferred to the regular applicant pool. Students applying Early Action can apply to other colleges under the same option unless a college specifies single choice early action. Students who are admitted under the Early Action process have until May 1st to decide which college to attend, as do students admitted under Regular Decision and Rolling Admission.
The fourth option for applying to colleges is Early Decision. Like Early Action, typical deadlines are early to mid-November with notification in mid to late December. Applicants are either admitted, denied or deferred to the regular applicant pool as is the case with Early Action. The difference is that students admitted under an Early Decision process are obligated to attend the school and must withdraw applications that have been submitted to other colleges/universities. Early Decision is binding while early action is non-binding. This is the crucial distinction between the two early options.