With the 1st week of September under our belts, the college application season is in full swing. If you or your student are applying to college this fall, we want to make sure you don’t rush into anything just to “get it done.” Just as every college is different, every college has its own application policies and it is very important that student applicants understand the differences between submission options.

As most of you know, the Common Application has opened for the HS class of 2016, (it opened back on August 1, in case you’ve been out of touch for the past four weeks) and there is the usual mad rush to get it filled out and submitted. While the application is, indeed, open; we want to caution students to take their time with this very important document.

There are 3 main admissions topics to be informed about and here’s a quick primer:

Rolling Admissions- on-going with no fixed deadline by which they need to be submitted. In rolling admissions, applications are reviewed on a continuing basis and and admissions decisions are made as applications are received. Often, students are notified of their admissions decision within weeks of submitting their completed application.

Regular Admissions- fixed deadline by which all applications AND SUPPORTING MATERIALS must be received by the college. Sometimes, regular admissions deadlines are Nov. 30 (think schools in the Cal State system and University of California schools) but can also be December 1, December 15, January 1 or January 15.

Early Admissions– This is where it gets a little complicated. There are three options here: Early Action, Early Decision and Restricted Early Action. If a particular college offers any of these “early” submission options, a student might be submitting their completed application (and all those pesky “supporting materials” — transcripts, test-scores, essays, letters of recommendation, among others) as early as October 15; but more commonly on (or before) November 1 or November 15. The advantage here is that colleges will make their admissions decisions early and let the student know sooner than they do for students who file under a “regular decision” plan–usually sometime in December. To find out more about the differences between submission options, check each college’s website.

So, does your student need to immediately hop on-line to get that Common Application filled out and submitted before dinner tonight? We say NO! Once the student has determined their list of schools and all submission options are researched, students can make a plan for filling out and submitting their applications. Taking this process slow and going about it in an organized, thoughtful way will always yield better results. 

Remember that not all schools use the Common Application. It is a subscription service used by about 500 colleges in America. If you are applying to college, you can check and see if the schools on your list use the Common Application. If they do,  you fill out ONE application, and the information is forwarded to the schools you select. If you are applying to a college (or colleges) that do not subscribe to the Common Application, you will need to fill out the school’s on-line application separately from the Common Application.

Did you know:  Colleges in the University of California and California State University systems do NOT use the Common Application? Instead, they each use their own application software. Applications are available on-line now and the submission “window” is Oct. 1-November 30*. There is no benefit to submitting these early, as these two systems wait until the closing date (Nov. 30) before they even begin to evaluate applicants. *Exception: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is the only CSU campus that offers an Early Decision option. The deadline for ED applicants is October 31, 2015. Find out more here.

Whew! That’s a lot of information to digest, trust us, we know! College admissions can be complicated and daunting but it doesn’t need to be. If you have any questions we encourage you to attend one of our FREE Ask the Expert Sessions to get your questions answered.