Regular Application Deadline
Many colleges establish an application deadline by which all applications must be received. All students are then notified of the college's decision at a uniform response date, typically on or before April 15th.
Most colleges agree to reserve May 1st as the date by which accepted applicants must indicate their intention to enroll. By using a common reply date, students can evaluate all notices of admissions and financial aid before deciding on any one college.
Early decision is offered by many colleges to applicants who are absolutely sure that they want to attend a certain college. This college should clearly be your first choice! Traditionally, the deadline for early decision applications is in the fall, before the Holiday Break, but you should check with the college to which you are applying to make sure that you have the right deadline date. In return, colleges give you an admissions decision soon after.
If accepted under Early Decision, you are under a strong ethical obligation to withdraw or forego applications to all other colleges!
Early action is similar to early decision, except that, if admitted, you are not ethically obligated to withdraw other college applications, and you have until May 1st to decide. Early action is simply a device that schools use to encourage students to apply early. It is a non-binding decision.
Under rolling admissions, a college will consider your application as soon as all required credentials have been received. Notification of your acceptance or rejection is mailed shortly after all your materials have been reviewed. Colleges that follow this practice make their admissions decisions continuously over several months. Please keep in mind that although a school may have a rolling deadline, popular programs may fill up quickly! It is always a good idea to apply early!
Deferred or Delayed Admission
Most colleges will allow you to defer / postpone your enrollment, generally for up to one year. Students who are considering taking a year off after high school are strongly encouraged to apply to colleges while still in school, and then opt for deferred admission.
An open admissions policy grants acceptance to all high school graduates without regard to additional qualifications.