There’s a lot of planning that goes into researching, visiting, and applying to different colleges. Amid all the excitement, it can be easy to overlook a small, but very crucial detail: college application deadlines. To prevent delays and missing out on opportunities completely, it’s important to be aware of the deadlines at the specific colleges or programs you’re interested in.
You should also be aware of the different types of applications and admissions processes at each school. Your choice will determine the deadline for each application.
Read on to learn more about the important deadlines that you should know for the school year.
Applications for Early Decision
Deadline: November 1, 2023*
Early decision applications have early deadlines. They often come a few months prior to early action–many falling in November and December. If you decide to apply for early decision, you’ll have an admission decision before other students who applied through regular admission. If you’re accepted through early decision, you will be expected to attend that school. If you think this might be the route for you, start researching the requirements for your top college choices during your junior year of high school so that you have plenty of time to apply.
Applications for Early Action
Deadline: November 1, 2023 and November 15, 2023*
College application deadlines for early action follow similar deadlines as early decision. The major difference is that you are not required to attend a specific school just because you were accepted under early action. It gives you added flexibility to apply early without any major commitment. It might be a good idea to apply for early action to your top schools and use regular admission for other options.
Applications for Regular Admission
Deadline: January 1, 2024*
Most regular admission–also known as regular decision–deadlines are in January, but specific deadlines can vary by school. Regular admission is the most popular college admissions option and has one of the latest application deadlines. Many students choose regular admission because they have more time to gather all the required materials for their applications. This includes test scores, recommendation letters, essays, SAT scores, and financial aid information. Missing the application deadline can result in delays and could mean starting college later than you initially planned.
*Deadlines will vary according to school. Check with your institution.
Additional Deadlines to Keep in Mind
The Common Application
Deadline: January 1, 2024 for Regular Admission*
The Common Application (Common App) is a single college application you can use for multiple schools. About 900 colleges and universities accept the Common App, so it will save you time during the application process. The form typically opens in August, so you can get a head start in filling it out before regular admission is due.
Most schools will have their own set of specific requirements to accompany the Common App. You will likely need to gather letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or mentors. Some applications will probably also require an essay, so having the Common Application filled out and ready to go will give you more time to draft thoughtful essays for all your applications.
Timeline: Spring or summer of junior year or fall of senior year.
If you’re submitting SAT or ACT scores with your college applications, you’ll want to keep registration and testing deadlines in mind as well. This means finding local testing schedules and signing up to take the test ahead of college application deadlines. Many registration deadlines for SATs and ACTs are about a month before the test date, so you’ll have to plan ahead. Knowing your testing date will help you plan your studying time, too. When it comes to applying to colleges, you’ll also need to factor in the time it will take to receive your exam scores back (typically three weeks) so that they can be submitted with your college applications.
Timeline: Spring or summer of junior year or fall of senior year.
The sooner you take tours of the campuses you’re considering, the better. You’ll want to thoughtfully consider everything you learned from each tour and go on tours before you begin sending in applications. Each college will have its own dates and guidelines for campus tours, so you’ll want to confirm the timeline for each school you’re interested in seeing.
Some may only be offered during certain hours or days of the week, and during specific times of the year. Others may require sign-ups in advance with limited availability, so you’ll want to reserve your spot as soon as possible. If you’ll need to travel overnight to the schools, consider the cost of the travel when picking your dates to go. Everything from plane tickets to hotel rooms can vary, and you’ll want to avoid high-priced time periods if possible.
Deadline: FAFSA due June 30, 2024.
Every student should fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) each year that they are in school. The FAFSA typically becomes available each year on October 1, but will not open this year until December 2023. Keep in mind that while the FAFSA itself has deadlines, individual schools have separate due dates for when they expect you to complete the form; a school’s FAFSA due date is typically well ahead of the date the FAFSA technically closes. It’s also a good idea to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible since some financial aid is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you miss a school deadline for filing your FAFSA, you may not receive the money you need for an upcoming semester in time to avoid late fees, or worse, you may miss your chance to get in a class altogether.
While you can apply for some scholarships year-round, many scholarships have hard deadlines in place. Beyond meeting the application due date, some scholarships have requirements you’ll need to meet to qualify. It’s not too early to start looking for scholarship opportunities during your freshman and sophomore years in high school. This will give you enough time to complete requirements, such as the minimum number of public service hours.
Remember, it’s never too soon to begin tracking the important dates and deadlines related to your college search. Find an organization method that works for you, and mark down the key dates to get started. When it comes to individual schools, be sure to check with each one since every school is different. Starting early and getting your calendar in order can help take some of the stress out of the hunt for your perfect college and help you focus on finding the best fit for you.