Some years ago, one of my students submitted her application to the University of Colorado at Boulder early and was accepted by the end of September. Since Boulder was her first choice, this student had a stress-free senior year. But is applying early always a good idea?
It depends on the school. Rolling admission, which is more common at public universities, like University of Arizona, means your application will be reviewed as soon as it’s complete, and you could have a decision in 4-8 weeks. At some schools, if there are a lot of early applications from strong students, those who apply later could be at a competitive disadvantage. Applying earlier can also mean priority consideration for scholarships, as well as housing, at some colleges. It can also signal interest in a college, which can be helpful, but only if a student is able to submit her strongest application at that time.
Students who apply in September no longer get such a fast decision from Boulder. If you submit an application by the November 15 early action deadline, you’ll have a decision by February 1. Apply by the regular deadline of January 15 and you will be notified by April 1.
Public schools in California have narrow application windows. The University of California accepts applications only from November 1-30 and campuses release their decisions in March. There’s no advantage to submitting your application Nov. 1, but you don’t want to wait till the end of the month because it becomes very stressful, and when you’re rushed, it’s easy to make mistakes. The Cal State University application period is October 1 – November 30, and depending on the campus, decisions typically are released from January through March.