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College Admissions Process

A Breakdown of Admissions Programs

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Regular decision programs request that students submit their applications usually around January 1st. Students who apply regular decision may be admitted, denied, or placed on a waiting list. Most students will apply Regular Decision. The college reviews the applications and informs applicants of the decisions in the spring. Students then will need to send in a deposit and agreement to attend by May 1.
Early action programs typically require students to submit applications 6 to 8 weeks before the regular decision deadline. Applicants applying EA have the benefit of receiving a decision up to five months before regular decision applicants. Some colleges have restrictive or single choice early action meaning that they may, for example, not allow EA applicants to apply to any other schools early. Every school has its own flavor of restriction, so be sure to check with each school on its policy. Schools with unrestricted early action permit students to apply early decision or early action to any number of colleges. Colleges and universities can choose to accept, defer, or deny an early action applicant. An accepted student has been admitted to college, a deferred student has had their application moved to the regular decision round of applications and will be reevaluated, and a denied student has been rejected from the college.
Advantages of EA:

  • You may apply to any number of colleges via EA, as you are not bound to attend the school if they accept you. (Exception: some schools have restricted Early Action, meaning you agree to only apply to one school via Early Action.)
  • You may find out early that you have been accepted, thus reducing your stress when waiting to hear from other colleges.
  • You may find out early what the school is willing to offer vis-à-vis a financial aid package, allowing a point of comparison when you begin to receive other package offers.
  • The University of Vermont waives the application fee for Vermont residents who apply EA.
  • If you are deferred to the regular pool, you will have a second chance to be considered for the school.

Disadvantages of EA:

  • If accepted, it might be easier for you to procrastinate on your other applications. This would severely limit your options.
  • If students do not start the application process early, the application may be rushed to complete it by November or December dates.

Early decision programs require applicants to submit applications by November 1st. Unlike with early action, these applications are binding meaning that if you are accepted, you are obligated to attend. As a result, students are only permitted to apply to one school early decision. ED applicants typically receive their admissions decisions by mid-December. Like EA, ED schools can accept, defer, or deny their applicants.

Some institutions will offer two rounds of early decision. ED I applicants will submit applications by November 1st and hear back around December 15th. ED II applicants, however, will submit their binding applications at the same time as regular decision candidates but will receive notification in February.

Advantages of ED:

  • If accepted, you know where you are going for college and are done with the college application process early.
  • You may have a slightly better chance of being accepted to a more competitive college if you apply ED than if you apply in the regular pool. Many schools take a fixed percentage of their available spots from the ED applicant pool.
  • If you are deferred to the regular pool, you will have a second chance to be considered for the school.

Disadvantages of ED:

  • You have signed a contract to attend the college, if accepted. If you were unsure when you applied, you may have made a mistake.
  • If the college does not accept you, you won’t know until about mid-December. You may then be in a rush to get applications, letters of recommendation, and transcripts out to the other colleges in which you are interested, if you have not been working on these applications.
  • Many students grow and change considerably throughout their senior year, and early November is much too soon for most to have made a definitive decision about the college they want to attend. We find many of our students change their mind about where they would most want to attend college throughout their senior year. For most, it is helpful to delay the final decision until as late in the spring as possible.
  • The financial aid package offered to you may be inadequate and you will have no other college offers to compare it to.
  • You will have had to have taken your SAT/ACT early, certainly at least once during May or June of your junior year.

Early admissions programs allow talented high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors to attend college without receiving a high school diploma. These programs can be excellent for high school students who are unchallenged yet mature enough to transition to college before many of their peers.
Rolling admissions programs admit students on a continual, or rolling, basis. This means that the school will make admissions decisions every few weeks and stop accepting applications once space in the given class has filled. Schools with rolling admissions usually accept and reject some applicants in the window in which they apply; however they will oftentimes hold applications for several rounds before making a decision.

Advantages of RA:

  • applicants may receive a decision long before the March or April notification period of regular admission colleges
  • applying early can improve an applicant’s chance of being accepted
  • applying early may improve an applicant’s chance of receiving a scholarship
  • applying early may give an applicant first choice for housing
  • some rolling admission colleges still give students until May 1 to make a decision; this allows an applicant to weigh all options
  • a student who applies early and is rejected may still have time to apply to other colleges with winter deadlines
  • rolling admission colleges may remain an option if a student gets rejected elsewhere; some rolling admission colleges accept applications right up until classes start

Open admissions allow any student with a high school diploma or GED certificate to attend; any student who has completed high school has the opportunity to pursue a college degree.

The reality isn’t quite so simple. At four-year colleges, students are sometimes guaranteed admission if they meet minimum test score and GPA requirements. In these situations, a four-year college often collaborates with a community college so that students who don’t meet the minimum requirements can still begin their college educations.

Also, guaranteed admission to an open admission college doesn’t always mean that a student can take courses. If a college has too many applicants, students may find themselves waitlisted for some if not all courses. This scenario has proven all too common in the current economic climate.

The open admissions movement began in the second half of the 20th century and had many ties to the civil rights movement. California and New York were on the forefront of making college accessible to all high school graduates.

Community colleges are almost always open admissions, as are a significant number of four-year colleges and universities.