Is There a “Best” Time to Apply to College?

You know the old saying that “timing is everything,” but does that rule really apply when it comes to the college admissions process? Some high school seniors rush to get their applications filled out as quickly as possible, while others don’t get everything completed until the very last minute. Most, of course, fall somewhere in between these two opposites.

Potential college students should already be aware that there are three types of college applications – Common, Coalition, and individual. College websites can guide you as to which one they require, and also provide a list of additional submission needs based on your major. So, when should you try to complete the application? There are a few deadlines you can work around:

• Early Decision: These applications have probably all been submitted for the 2018-19 academic year, and students should be receiving their notifications shortly. This is only used if you are certain the college you are applying to is the one you want to attend. Decisions are binding, and you agree to enroll if admitted.

• Early Action: While the submission deadlines are similar to the early decision process, an acceptance decision is not binding on the student. You can still apply to other schools if you haven’t quite made up your mind.

• Regular Decision: These deadlines usually fall around January or February, with the colleges making their final decisions by April. It provides more time for the student to complete the process, but might have an impact on the amount of financial aid received.

• Rolling Admission: These schools will accept applications until the program fills up; some are even possible right up through the summer before classes begin. If the major you want to pursue is very popular, there is a chance you could miss out by waiting too long to apply.

One point to keep in mind is that financial aid timeframes now fall more in line with admissions deadlines. Students have been able to complete the FAFSA since October. The hope is that those who apply early action will have a better idea of the financial aid packages available from each college. Early decision applicants agree to attend their chosen college, without knowing their financial aid package.

Some financial aid programs are only available until the funding runs out, so it is best to complete the admissions and financial aid applications as early as possible to maximize chances of getting in and being able to pay for it. There is also the possibility that the student may not be accepted, or that the college will delay its decision until it determines whether there is room available in the upcoming class. You want to leave yourself enough time to explore additional options in either of these situations.

But, the main priority should be getting everything done right the first time. It is better to be right and late, than wrong and early.