Explained: Application process and related terms for admission in us universities

October 24, 2019


Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision, University Application, USA

International students applying for undergraduate or graduate degree course in various universities and colleges in the US often come across terms like Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision and Early Admission. In this blog, Student Cover would try to explain these terms and how a particular type of application affects a student’s prospect of getting admission in a college or university in the US.

Admission Cycle in US Universities

Like India, a majority of US Universities begin their academic session in the month of August-September. Some US Universities also admit students in Spring Semester but the intake is usually very low and is usually confined to admitting students for Masters Degree or PhD programs.

Application timeline – Spring Semester & Fall Semester

Since US Universities follow semester system, the admission schedule can be divided based on whether a student is applying for Spring Semester or Fall Semester.

Spring Semester Applicants – The Spring semester begins in January and continues till May/June. The application process for the Spring Semester begins in the month of July and may last till September.

Fall Semester Application – The Fall semester usually begins in the month of August/September and ends in December. The application process for Fall Semester begins as early as October of the previous year and may last till March of the current year.

It is within these time-spans that students have to decide whether to go for Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision and Early Admission. Mostly, these options are applicable only for Fall Semester admissions.

Early Action – This is an application option wherein the applicant for Fall semester applies earlier than regular applicants i.e. before November of the previous year. Those students who apply using Early Action option get to know quite early whether the University/College has accepted, rejected or deferred their application. It is a non-binding option which means that students are not bound by contract to attend the institution if their application gets accepted by the institution. They also get time till May of the next year to give their consent. Early Action students can apply in multiple colleges and universities.

Who should choose Early Action?

  • – Those who are unsure about taking admission in a particular university
  • – Those who wish to apply in multiple universities
  • – Those who seek funding and wish to explore all options

Early Decision – Early Decision applicants apply for admission and get information earlier than regular applicants. However, unlike Early Action applicants, they are bound by contract to study in the institution if that institution accepts their application. Applying through Early Decision option is advised only to those students who are sure about the institution that they want to study in. It is not advised for those students who want to apply in multiple institutions because Early Decision applicants are asked to withdraw their applications from other universities. They must enroll by February.

Who apply through Early Decision?

  • – Those who have done thorough research and are sure about the college or university they want to study in
  • – Those who do not seek funding are ready to accept any funding that the institution offers
  • – Those who want to increase their chances of getting admission before competition increases during regular decision.

Regular Decision – This is the most common form of application where the students targeting Fall semester admission, apply by the end of December and are notified about their status by April next year. These applicants are not bound to take admission if their application is admitted. They can therefore apply in multiple universities.

However, the main drawback of such application is that due to increased competition and many seats having already filled through Early Decision and Early Action, the probability of them getting admitted in the University of their choice becomes low.

Let’s Wrap up!!

Universities in US admit students for both Spring and Fall Semester even though intake for Spring semester is low and involves mostly Masters Degree and PhD students. Both Early Action and Early Decision students apply early and know the outcome early. However, “Early Decision” applicants are mandatorily required to study in the applied university if selected whereas “Early Action” students are not.

Disclaimer: The content of the following article is based on the personal research of the writer. Readers are advised to exercise discretion. Student Cover will not be liable for any wrongful interpretation of the content of this article.

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