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College Admission Models

There are many different models that colleges use as a guide for their admissions policies and deadlines. Because of this variation, the process of college admissions can be very confusing for students who do not understand the different models. The most common college admissions models are described below to help students gain an understanding of each model.

Standard Admissions


Colleges usually either have fixed-term admissions deadlines or rolling admissions. Below is a description of each.

Rolling Admissions

Colleges that use a Rolling Admissions model review each application once all of the application materials are received. Admissions decisions are made and sent out in the order that admissions materials are received. While students may apply through the start of classes, students who apply early often have an admission advantage when space is limited.

Fixed-Term Deadlines
(Also referred to as regular admission or regular decision)

Colleges using this model have a specific deadline for students to submit admissions materials. Applications are often due sometime between January and February. However, deadlines do vary among colleges. Students are encouraged to research the deadlines for all colleges where they might apply.

Colleges that have fixed-term deadlines also have a specific date when admissions decisions are sent out to applicants. In general, students can expect to receive their decision by the beginning of April. Students who have been accepted often have until May 1st to notify the college of their decision.

Some of colleges that have fixed-term admissions decisions also have an early admissions option.

Early Admissions


Some colleges give students the option of a receiving an earlier notification of the admissions decision to students who apply early. The deadline for students to submit their application for early admission is often near the beginning of November.

There may be restrictions with early admissions. Students who are considering applying for an early admissions option should research the policies carefully.

Colleges that offer an early admission option usually use one of several different models of early admissions. Below are the most common models of early admissions:

Early Decision

This model is a binding admission agreement. That means that students who apply under Early Decision commit to attend the college if they are admitted. Once students are admitted under Early Decision, they are asked to withdraw all applications they have made to other colleges. Generally speaking, only students who have a clear, first-choice of college and the ability to attend without regard to financial aid awards should apply under an early decision option.

Early Action

This model is similar to Early Decision except the decision is not binding. Students who are admitted under Early Action may choose to attend the college or they may wait for decisions from other colleges before making up their mind.

Single-Choice Early Action

Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA) is actually a subcategory of Early Action. Under this admissions model, students cannot apply to any other college for early admissions. Although it is not binding, students who apply under SCEA agree to only apply to one school for any type of early admission. They may apply to other colleges in the standard time frame.


Students are encouraged to investigate the policies and deadlines of each college they are interested in attending. Students who are considering early admissions options, will have to prepare their applications materials earlier than their fellow students, this includes tasks such as completing admissions applications, securing teaching recommendations, and completing admissions testing.



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