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College Application Deadlines in USA - Early Action, Regular Deadlines

College Application Deadlines in USA Universities

by Anamika Sharma

College application deadlines – one of the most important aspects to consider for international students who wish to study abroad. With adequate time on hand, students can prepare for their study abroad in a systematic and timely manner. International students who want to study in USA must start their preparation as early as a year before. And to start early, the candidates must keep track of college application deadlines.

Since thousands of international students apply every year to the US universities, having comprehensive knowledge about the college application deadlines can give them ample amount of time to prepare for the admission processes and avoid last minute hustles. Here in this article, we will discuss the admission seasons, early and regular decisions and application timeline of US universities and colleges.

College Application Deadlines – Steps to Follow Before Starting the Application Process

While starting their preparation, students must chart out a plan for themselves as a last-minute rush could hamper their chances of getting admitted into their desired college and course. Highlighted below are some important steps for Indian students to make their application process easy and smooth on their way to study in USA.

  • First, the students need to prepare a list of colleges they wish to apply to and choose their preferred degree subject.
  • The next step in this process is to take the required entrance tests like SAT, ACT, LSAT, GMAT and GRE which assess a candidate’s suitability for the college course. Students should also prepare their portfolios as some colleges may ask for them.
  • US colleges ask for proof of English language proficiency. International students must, thus, check with the university/college to know which English language tests they take into account. Then, the students should take an accepted test like PTE, IELTS, TOEFL, etc, and get an acceptable score for admission.
  • Student loan is an important aspect for those students who wish to study abroad. Prospective students must gather all the information about education loans for international study.
  • Students must prepare a file of all the required documents such as marksheets (high school and/or colleges), CV, entrance test scores, proof of English proficiency and other such required documents.

Now that you know about how to start your study in USA plan, let’s take a look at different options for applying to US colleges and universities.

College Application Deadlines – Admission Plans for Applying to US Colleges

The admission process in the USA is quite different than that of India. In India, we have just one admission cycle in which we can apply for colleges when their application forms are out, while in the USA, the students have the flexibility to apply through Early Admission plan, Regular Admission plan or Rolling Admission plan. Given below are the definitions of these plans to help you understand them better.

Early Admission Plan

As the name suggests, the early admission plan allows students to apply for their chosen institution before the regular admission process starts. Applications for early admission are generally processed during the month of November and students are informed of their acceptance or rejection by mid December. This admission plan helps students avoid the rush period and increases their chance of acceptance due to the availability of seats. There are three ways to apply for the shortlisted colleges under early admission plan.

  • Early decision

Early decision application binds a student in a commitment that says he/she is to attend the university/college in exchange for early acceptance and withdraw applications from other universities. Also, the candidate stands to lose his/her enrolment deposit if he/she doesn’t attend the college. The application date usually falls in November under early decision.

  • Early action

Under early action application, the students receive their acceptance early but can wait till regular admission time to make a final decision about the college/university. It allows students to apply to other colleges since the early action application is non-binding. It is beneficial for international students who get time to arrange for financial aid and prepare their move to the US in a planned manner.

  • Single choice early action

This application is non-binding under which the applicants can apply to only one university/college on the basis of an early action application and are not permitted to apply to any other school till they receive their early action decision. However, after receiving the decision, the applicants can apply to other colleges during the regular admission cycle. Single choice early action application asks students to have their applications completed early.

Regular Admission Plan

Under regular admission application, the applicants need to apply by the deadlines set by the universities and they are not held under any commitment to make an early decision to attend the college if accepted. Also, the applicants can apply to as many institutions as they wish within the stipulated time-frame. The students receive the acceptance decision between 1 January to 1 March.

Rolling Admission Plan

Under rolling admission application, colleges evaluate the applicants’ applications until there are seats available for the incoming class. It gives a large window of time to the applicants – at least a six-month window. Rolling admission gives students the opportunity to apply early and receive their application decision early, usually within 4-6 weeks. It is less stressful if the applicants apply early, as well as less competitive as their applications are not compared to other entrants in case of early applications.

College Application Deadlines – Seasonal Intakes in USA Universities

Now that you know about admission cycle of the US colleges, you must know about the season of admission in the USA. Most of the universities in the US allow students to take admission in their chosen course during any of the three admission seasons – Spring, Summer and Fall. However, several colleges prefer the intake of students in the Fall and Summer seasons. The most preferred one for Indian students would be the Fall session as its application timeline starts during the months of August and September. Indian students can start their admission process a year before, i.e., at the beginning of their final year in high school/degree college. Starting early helps them to research about colleges and courses, apply for the selected ones and look for financial aid. Also, by the time the students finish their final exam and receive their result, i.e., next year during the months of May/June, the US universities/colleges start sending out acceptance or rejection letters to the candidates. After receiving the acceptance letter, international students can start their visa application process.

Find below the college application deadlines of top US colleges/universities for the academic year 2019-20:

College Application Deadlines of US Colleges

Name of College/University Early Action (EA) Deadline Regular Action (RA) Deadline
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 1 November 1 January
Note: The EA applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by mid-March.

Read ‘MIT Scholarships – All You Need to Know’ to know about scholarships provided by MIT.

Harvard University 1 November 1 January
Note: Harvard recommends EA applicants to submit their application by 15 October so that their applications can be processed early and interview by alumni can be scheduled.

Read ‘Harvard University Scholarship – Key Dates, Eligibility, Application Process and Rewards’ to know about scholarships provided by MIT.

Stanford University 15 October (Restrictive EA application with Arts Portfolio deadline)

1 November (standard EA deadline)

1 December (Application with Arts Portfolio)

2 January (standard RA deadline)

Note: The applicants of restrictive EA receive their application decision by 7 December and RA applicants receive the decision by 29 March. Transfer applicants must submit their application by March 15.
California Institute of Technology 1 November 3 January
Note: The EA applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by mid-March.
University of Chicago 1 November (EA and Early Decision I college application deadlines) 2 January (RA and Early Decision II deadline)
Note: The EA applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by mid-March.
Princeton University 1 November (Single-choice EA deadline)

9 November (Financial aid forms deadline)

1 January

1 February (Financial aid forms deadline)

Note: The EA applicants receive application decision by mid-December and RA applicants receive by 28 March.
Cornell University 1 November (Early decision and financial aid college application deadlines)

15 October (Spring semester transfer admission)

2 January (Regular decision and financial aid deadline)

15 March (Fall semester transfer admission)

Note: The EA applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by early April.
Yale University 1 November (Single-choice EA deadline)

10 November (Financial aid application deadline)

2 January

15 March (Financial aid application deadline)

Note: The Single-choice EA applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by 1 April.
Columbia University 1 November (Early decision deadline)

1 March (Transfer admission deadline)

15 October (Spring admission deadline for visiting student program)

1 January (RA deadline)

15 February (Combined plan program deadline)

15 March (Fall admission deadline for visiting student program)

Note: The Early decision applicants receive their admission decision on or before 15 December and RA applicants by 1 April.
University of Pennsylvania 1 November (Early decision deadline) 5 January
Note: The Early decision applicants receive their admission decision by mid-December and RA applicants by 1 April.

Also, read ‘Study in USA – International Student Work Permit’.

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