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Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

8 College Admission Types (And the One that Works Best for Your Senior!)

by | Aug 8, 2020 | Ask the admission office | 0 comments

It’s time for seniors to get that admission ball rolling, and now’s the time to start. 

One of the things I wish would be easier to understand are the different types of admission available at all schools. (I also wish there was one standard financial aid award that looked the same nationwide.)

I worked in the admission office of my alma mater for 12 years and we had rolling admission. This means that we’d accept applications as they came in, without an application deadline. 

In other words, if you applied in September of senior year, you could get admitted just as easily as if you waited to May of senior year. The perks to rolling admission is that you don’t have to worry about a deadline date. 

However, the downside is that your child doesn’t have a deadline. It’s often easier to make sure your child actually gets the application done when there’s a hard-and-fast deadline. 

There are no right or wrong answers (kind of like choosing a major) but there are definitely types of admission that match best with your child’s personality. Let’s dive into seven different admission types and figure out which one is best for your student.

Various Types of College Admission

Let’s go over seven common types of college admission practices: Regular admission, rolling admission, 

Regular Admission

Regular admission allows students to apply to as many schools as they would like. There’s an application submission deadline, which will vary between institutions. However, regular admission deadlines typically fall in early January and admission offers are sent out in late March or early April. Your student has until May 1 to either accept or decline the admission offers. Colleges that offer regular admission typically have an early college admission option (detailed below) so make sure you and your student are aware of all the deadline dates!

Best for: Students who want flexibility with their admission decision and don’t want to have to commit to a school early.

Rolling Admission

As I mentioned before, our college participated in rolling admission. Rolling admission means a college releases admission decisions regularly — sometimes daily — instead of sending them all out on one target date. 

An admission committee will only review your child’s application as soon as all required information (such as high school records and test scores) has been received, rather than setting an application deadline and reviewing applications in a batch. Colleges that use a rolling admission policy usually notify applicants of admission decisions quickly.

If you apply earlier, you’ll receive your decision earlier. iming is important when applying to schools with rolling admissions. As classes fill up, fewer spots remain.

The average turnaround time for rolling admissions decisions by colleges is about two to six weeks. Rolling admissions decisions are non-binding, which means that your child will not be required to attend that school. Your child will not need to decide whether to enroll until May 1, often referred to as National Candidate Reply Day. 

Best for: Students who are unhurried throughout the college search process or who want to take their time to compare schools and financial aid awards.

Open Admission 

Open admission means a college accepts any high school graduate (no matter what those grades look like) until all spaces in the incoming class are filled. Two-year community colleges immediately come to mind — most community colleges have a two-year open admission policy. Note that a college with a general open admission policy may have certain admission requirements for specific programs.

Best for: Students who don’t have stellar academic performance, those who want to save money by going the community college route for two years.

Early College Admission

You may have already heard of the terms “early action” and “early decision” and may be a little curious about what they mean, particularly for parents of underclassmen. The tricky thing about some early admission programs is that your child may be required to attend that school. It’s great for the colleges because they get early commitments from students and Let’s go over these types of admission in a little more detail.

Early Action (EA)

Early action means your student has the option to submit an application before the regular deadline. It’s a great way to get an admission decision from a college much earlier than usual. 

One of the most flexible parts of early action plans is that they are not binding, which means that your child is not required to attend that particular college through this type of admission. Some colleges have an early action option called EA II, which involves a later application deadline than the regular EA plan. 

To sum up:

  • Your child can apply to more than one college through early action.
  • A student can commit to that college right away or wait until spring to decide.
  • Your student can also decline the offer.

Best for: Students who have done their homework for the college search. The advantage to early action is that they know they’ve been accepted to college as they apply to other schools during the regular application period. In other words, they want to know they can relax a little bit.

Early Decision (ED)

Early decision means your child can submit an application to his or her first-choice college before the regular deadline. Your student will get an admission decision earlier than usual. Early decision plans are binding. This means your child must enroll in the college immediately if admitted and accept the financial aid award offered. Some colleges have an early decision option called ED II — a later application deadline than a school’s regular ED plan. 

To sum up:

  • Your student can apply to just one early decision college.
  • Your child must go to that college if accepted and if you’re awarded enough financial aid. The decision is binding.
  • The early decision II (ED II) deadline gives your child more time to decide whether to apply early.
  • Your child must withdraw all other applications to other schools if accepted early decision.

Best for: Students who choose to go the early decision route know they want to go to one school and one school only. As a family, you must be comfortable with the financial aid award and know that your student can’t entertain any other offers from other schools.

Single-Choice Early Action or Restrictive Early Action

Single-choice early action, also known as restrictive early action or restricted early action, is another non-binding option. This means your child is not required to attend if accepted. However, if your student applies using this method, your child may not apply to any other school during the early action period only. This type of admission incorporates features of both early action and early decision. To be quite frank, it’s less restrictive than early decision but more restrictive than early action. Whew!

To sum up:

  • Your student can apply early to only one college, similar to early decision. Everything else in this admission type works the same as early action.
  • Applying to other colleges is still acceptable during the regular admission process.
  • Your child doesn’t have to decide until spring.

Best for: Students going the Ivy League route. This isn’t a common admission type unless your child is applying to a highly competitive school.

Early Evaluation

Admission offices may advise your student in writing of the likelihood of admission — whether it’s likely, possible or unlikely — no earlier than October 1 of your child’s senior year in high school. If a school indicates it’s likely, it’s similar to an acceptance — as long as your child keeps the same academic and personal record reflected in the completed application. The college will send a formal acceptance on the appropriate notification date. 

Let’s say your student is lucky enough to get one or more such written communications. If your child has made a decision to go to one school, he’s encouraged (but not required) to notify all other institutions and to withdraw all other applications. 

Deferred Admission

Permission from a college that has accepted you to postpone enrolling in the college. The postponement is usually for up to one year. Here are the steps to taking a gap year:

  1. Make sure your student applies to college before the gap year.
  2. Get accepted at that college.
  3. Next, your child will need to send an email or letter to the director of admission at that college to explain exactly what he or she plans to do during the gap year. Check out the Gap Year Association for college and university policies concerning gap years. Double-check for the most updated policies at your child’s school.
  4. Submit the enrollment deposit. This amount will be different at every school.
  5. Determine the effects deferral will have on your child’s financial aid or scholarships. Many schools will allow you to keep the same financial aid and scholarships but it could change year to year. Check with the admission office at your child’s school.
  6. Have your child find out whether the institution offers some form of gap year fellowship or subsidy program. Yep, it’s possible to get funded for a gap year!
  7. Note that the school has the right to deny your gap year. If that happens, your child has a few options:
    • Your child can decide to attend the college as scheduled and not take the gap year. 
    • Your student could wait and reapply to college until after the gap year. The downside is that your child may not be able to start college for another two years, which could end up making the transition a bit more difficult. Transcripts, test scores and letters of recommendation may also be more difficult to come by.
    • It may make sense to apply to multiple colleges and ask about gap year policies at each one. 

Tips with COVID-19 in Mind

Ask colleges about their admission procedures and whether they’ve changed them in the wake of COVID-19. It can also be a challenge to get all those deadlines organized, so add them to the spreadsheet I’ve created for you and your student!

More tips: 

  1. Make sure you talk to an admission counselor on Zoom or over the phone to make sure you and your child understand all admission processes.
  2. Understand all admission options — many schools have more than one.
  3. Don’t get too comfortable with the flexibility of open and rolling admission. Have your child get those applications in early!

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