When you should start applying for college depends on your plan, but in general, most high school students will begin applying for college in the fall semester of their senior year. However, this will vary based on the individual school, your own time management skills and how quickly you can submit documents, such as teacher recommendation letters. While it is possible to apply earlier or later than the average student, any student who plans to attend college the fall semester immediately following their high school graduation will need to apply by the appropriate deadline, in order to ensure their application gets looked at. It's extremely important to pay attention to these deadlines so that you can prepare your application materials in advance, without rushing to complete everything on time. You may even consider applying as early as possible.

Understanding Different College Application Deadlines

Before you can know when is the right time to start applying for college, it's necessary to understand the different college application deadlines and what they mean:

  • Early Decision: Early decision is when you apply to a school that you're already set on going to. If you apply and get accepted, then you must attend. It is a binding decision and, therefore, you can only apply to one school via early decision. Early decision application deadlines are typically November 1st or November 15th, and you will usually hear back by December.
  • Early Action: Similar to early decision, early action is when you apply ahead of the regular decision deadline, perhaps because you want to get the application process out of the way as soon as possible. These deadlines can be between October and December, and you'll usually get your decision no later than February. Unlike early decision, though, the acceptance is nonbinding, so you don't need to commit to the school if you're waiting to hear back from others.
  • Regular Decision: Regular decision is the application period in which most high school students apply to college. Most regular decision deadlines are in January, which gives students plenty of time to apply if they begin during the fall of senior year. If you apply for regular decision, you will hear back around April.
  • Rolling Admission: Rolling admission is when colleges keep their application period open for several months and you can apply on a rolling basis. Most schools with rolling admissions have the deadline set in April, but will set a priority deadline by November. If a school has rolling admissions and you're very interested in attending that school, then you should apply by the priority deadline to increase your chances of acceptance.

When Is the Earliest You Can Apply for College?

The earliest you can apply for college depends on when an application opens for a specific deadline. Most students will start applying during the fall semester of their freshman year, and have most of their applications completed by November. That being said, many students will start gathering their materials as early as the end of junior year or over the summer before starting senior year, to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Remember to Check College Application Deadlines

The Common Application is a tool in which you can apply for most colleges in the United States within just one application. You may have to add additional documents for different schools, but this tool makes it easy to apply to many colleges at once. Even though many colleges will share similar deadlines (especially for regular admissions) it's imperative that you check the deadlines for each individual school you want to apply to, in order to make sure you don't miss a deadline. If you miss a deadline, then you cannot apply until the next application period.

When Do College Applications Open for Fall 2019

The earliest you can start applying is based on when the application opens. For instance, the Common Application opens August 1st for the following year, so theoretically, that's the earliest you can begin filling out your applications. For other colleges that don't use the Common Application, you will need to check when their individual application period opens. Like with many things, it's a good idea to apply as early as you can. This way, you can leave enough time to get in any documents you may have forgotten to submit, and you can be done with the stress and enjoy your last year of high school.

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About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.