Applying to College

When it’s time to apply to colleges, you may ask “where do I start?” Understanding some of the common deadlines and policies is helpful.

Early Action

Early Action (EA) is an option for a prospective student to apply for admission before the regular admission deadline and receives notice of acceptance, denial, or deferment. EA decisions are non-binding, meaning there’s no obligation to the university to enroll, if accepted for admission. Some schools have an option called EA II, which has an application deadline later than their regular EA plan but earlier than the regular deadline.

Early Decision (ED)

Early Decision (ED) is an option for prospective students, who are willing to commit to a school if accepted, and to submit their application by a date well before the general admission deadline. ED agreements are binding, meaning if accepted, the student must enroll in that school, so students should only apply Early Decision to their first choice school. Some schools have an option called ED II, which has an application deadline later than their regular ED plan but earlier than the regular deadline.

Rolling Admission

Rolling Admission is an admission policy of considering each application as soon as all required materials (such as high school records, test scores, etc) have been received, rather than setting a deadline and reviewing all applications altogether. Once all the spaces for the upcoming class are filled, they can not accept any more students regardless of their qualifications. Colleges that have a rolling admission policy usually notify applicants of admission decisions quickly.

Open Admission

Open Admission is a policy of accepting any high school graduate regardless of their grades, until all spaces for the incoming class are filled. Almost all two-year community colleges have this policy.

Test Optional

Colleges that don't require SAT or ACT scores as part of the application process but will consider them if submitted are considered Test Optional. This may be a good option for students whose standardized test scores do not reflect their true ability or potential. This typically involves submitting one or more essays in place of sending test scores.

Test optional colleges and universities

Comprehensive glossary of college terms

The Common App

The Common App is accepted by 816 colleges/universities in the U.S and allows you to save time, keep track of application materials, and (the best part) you write only one essay. 

Your guide to the Common App

List of school that accept the Common App 

Coalition for College Application

A smaller number of (generally elite) schools accept or require the Coalition for College Application. If the list of schools to which you are applying is comprised exclusively of schools that accept the Coalition App and you feel that its unique offerings (i.e. the storage locker, writing sample, etc.) work to your benefit, then it may make sense for you to use it. This scenario would only be likely for a high-caliber student applying to many elite colleges, since these types of schools make up the majority of The Coalition. On the other hand, if you plan on applying to ten schools and only two or three are Coalition members, then filling out both applications isn’t likely going to be a great use of your time.

List of schools using the coalition app



Writing the application essay(s) is probably going to be the task that takes the most time and effort. You want to make sure that you do your best to produce a well written essay that allows the colleges to hear your voice. Whether you are submitting the Common App or individual institution applications, you will be given essay prompts. The Common Application has determined the 2021-22 Common App essay prompts. This gives you ample time to write a strong essay. In addition to working with your Language Arts teachers, here are some websites with tips and sample essays:

Common App essay examples

Tips for Common App essay prompts


National Decision Day or Candidate’s Reply Date Agreement (CRDA)

National College Decision Day, also called simply Decision Day, takes place every year on May 1. Decision Day is the time when college applicants across the country must make their decision regarding which school they will attend that fall. Applicants are asked to signal their plans by signing a letter of intent to enroll, along with submitting a deposit to hold their place in the freshman class. 

Any college subscribing to this agreement will not require you to notify the school of your decision to accept admittance (or to accept an offer of financial aid) before May 1 of the year you apply. The purpose of the agreement is to give you time to hear from all of the colleges you applied to before having to make a commitment to any one of them.


International Student Assistance

eduPass - The Smart Student’s Guide to Studying in the USA - provides excellent resources for helping students who are not US citizens but want to attend college in the US. The topic of funding an American education for non-citizens is given special attention.