If you're applying early decision, then you've already accomplished something pretty rare in the college application process—you know exactly where you want to go to college!
This guide goes over your timeline for applying early decision and provides a comprehensive list of deadlines for all early decision schools. Read on to learn everything you will need to know about applying early decision to your dream school.
What You Need to Know About Early Decision
Early decision is a unique option when it comes to applying to college because it's binding. That's why you should only apply this way if you're 100% sure you want to go to the school and will be able to enroll regardless of the financial aid offer you receive.
If you apply early decision, you'll sign a statement of binding agreement to enroll. Since this is a big commitment, most colleges with early decision also require your parents and school counselor to sign this form, which can usually be found online through the Common Application or a school's individual application form.
Early decision might or might not actually have an early deadline. The traditional deadlines are in November, usually the 1st or the 15th, and you're typically notified of the admissions decision in December.
Some schools now also offer Early Decision II. Early Decision II is still binding, but the deadline is pushed forward, usually to sometime in January. This option is for applicants who are decided on a specific college but could benefit from a few more months to prepare their applications. Applicants who apply ED II will get their admissions decision earlier than usual, typically in February.
Regardless of whether you apply Early Decision I or II, all early decision applicants have to accept their offers and send in their deposits quickly after notification, rather than waiting until the national response date of May 1.
If you're applying Early Decision I, your challenge is to prepare the strongest application you can by the November deadline. Let's look at a possible timeline for gathering your application materials.
Timeline for Applying Early Decision
If you're applying early decision, it's probably safe to say that you're excited about attending your school of choice. To make this happen, though, you want to submit the strongest application you can.
For the SAT/ACT, you'll want to start prepping months in advance, even a year or more.
If your early decision deadline is in November, your last opportunity to take the ACT or SAT will be in September or October, respectively. At this point, you probably won't be able to view your scores before deciding whether to send them off to colleges. To put less pressure on yourself, you could test earlier and have your scores all set by the end of your junior year.
You might also ask your junior-year teachers for recommendations at the end of junior year, when your work will be fresh in their minds. At the absolute latest, you want to ask your counselor and teachers for recommendations a month before your deadline. In most cases, you should ask by October 1.
You also want to give your high school at least three weeks' to a month's notice for sending off your transcript and any other official documents that need to be sent to colleges. You might have to fill out a form and pay a small fee.
Finally, you should work on your personal essay and any other supplemental application essays over the summer before senior year. Writing the personal essay is a process, and you want to give yourself time to brainstorm, draft, get feedback, and revise.
You can spend September and October filling out your college applications, writing about your extracurricular activities, and proofreading what you've written for any errors or typos. As long as you start planning and preparing your application months in advance, you should be good to go for your early decision deadline.
To recap, here's what your schedule might look like if you're applying Early Decision I:
Step 1: Take the SAT or ACT early so you have enough available test dates to retake it, if desired. You might take the test first in the spring of sophomore year, again in the fall of junior year, and a third time in the spring of junior year. If you move this schedule forward, just remember that the fall of senior year will be your last opportunity to take the test.
Step 2: Ask for teacher recommendations at the end of junior year, or ask for teacher and counselor recommendations by October 1 at the latest.
Step 3: Make your request for your high school transcript to be sent by October 1. Depending on your school, you might have to fill out a form and pay a small fee.
Step 4: Work on your personal essay and any other essays over the summer and fall.
Step 5: Fill out your application in September and October, making sure to edit for clarity and proofread for errors.
If you're applying Early Decision II, you'll have more available test dates to take the SAT/ACT. You might also send your mid-year senior grades on your transcript. Waiting for this later deadline, if available, can be a good option if you're not totally satisfied with your academic record and test scores and feel you could present a stronger candidacy in January.
Now that you have a sense of the early decision application process, let's look at the deadlines of some popular schools. Some offer Early Decision II, while others don't have that second deadline (these ones say "N/A").
Early Decision Deadlines of Popular Schools
Deadline for ED I
Deadline for ED II
|American University||November 15||January 15|
|Boston University||November 1||January 2|
|Bowdoin College||November 15||January 1|
|Brandeis University||November 1||January 1|
|Brown University||November 1||N/A|
|Colby College||November 15||January 1|
|Columbia University||November 1||N/A|
|Cornell University||November 1||N/A|
|Dartmouth College||November 1||N/A|
|Duke University||November 1||N/A|
|Emory University||November 1||January 1|
|Johns Hopkins University||November 1||N/A|
|New York University||November 1||January 1|
|Northwestern University||November 1||N/A|
|Pomona College||November 1||January 1|
|Smith College||November 15||January 1|
|Tufts University||November 1||January 1|
|University of Pennsylvania||November 1||N/A|
|Vanderbilt University||November 1||January 1|
|Wesleyan University||November 15||January 1|
It tends to be smaller schools that offer Early Decision II, perhaps so they can have greater control over their enrollment numbers. The next chart is a comprehensive list of all the schools with early decision and their respective deadlines.
Early Decision Deadlines of All Schools
The following schools are listed in alphabetical order, so you can either scroll through the chart or use ctrl + F to jump straight to your school of interest.
|School||State||Early Decision Deadline||Early Decision II Deadline||Early Decision Notification|
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Alfred University||NY||December 1||N/A||December 15|
|Allegheny College||PA||November 15||February 1||Not reported|
|American University||DC||November 15||January 15||December 31, February 15|
|Amherst College||MA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Babson College||MA||November 1||January 2||December 15, February 15|
|Barnard College||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Bates College||ME||November 15||January 1||December 20, February 15|
|Beloit College||WI||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|Bennington College||VT||November 15||January 15||December 14, February 8|
|Bentley University||MA||November 15||N/A||December 31|
|Boston University||MA||November 1||January 2||December 15, February 15|
|Bowdoin College||ME||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Brandeis University||MA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 1|
|Brown University||RI||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Bryant University||RI||November 1||January 15||December 1, February 15|
|Bryn Mawr College||PA||November 15||January 1||Not reported|
|Bucknell University||PA||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Carleton College||MN||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Carnegie Mellon University||PA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Case Western Reserve University||OH||November 1||January 15||December 17, February 1|
|Centre College||KY||November 15||N/A||January 1|
|Champlain College||VT||November 15||N/A||Not reported|
|Christopher Newport University||VA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Claremont McKenna College||CA||November 1||January 5||December 15, February 15|
|Clarkson University||NY||December 1||N/A||January 1|
|Colby College||ME||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Colgate University||NY||November 15||January 15||December 15, Rolling|
|College of New Rochelle||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|College of the Atlantic||ME||December 1||January 15||December 15, January 30|
|College of the Holy Cross||MA||December 15||N/A||Rolling|
|College of William and Mary||VA||November 1||January 1||Early December, early February|
|College of Wooster||OH||November 1||January 15||November 15, February 1|
|Colorado College||CO||November 10||January 15||December 13, February 15|
|Columbia University||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Connecticut College||CT||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art||NY||November 1 (architecture), December 3 (engineering)||N/A||Not reported|
|Cornell University||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Cox College (Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program)||MO||June 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Dartmouth College||NH||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Davidson College||NC||November 15||January 2||December 15, February 1|
|Denison University||OH||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|DePauw University||IN||November 15||January 15||December 1, February 1|
|Dickinson College||PA||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Drew University||NJ||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Duke University||NC||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Duquesne University||PA||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Earlham College||IN||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Elon University||NC||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|Emory University||GA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Fairfield University||CT||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Five Towns College||NY||January 4||N/A||Not reported|
|Flagler College||FL||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Florida Southern College||FL||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Franklin & Marshall College||PA||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Furman University||SC||November 1||N/A||November 15|
|George Washington University||DC||November 1||January 5||December 31, February 28|
|Gettysburg College||PA||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Goucher College||MD||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Grinnell College||IA||November 15||January 1||December 15, Early February|
|Grove City College||PA||November 1||December 1||December 15, January 15|
|Hamilton College||NY||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Hamline University||MN||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Hampden-Sydney College||VA||November 15||N/A||Early December|
|Hampshire College||MA||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 1|
|Hartwick College||NY||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Harvey Mudd College||CA||November 15||January 5||December 15, February 15|
|Haverford College||PA||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|High Point University||NC||November 1||February 1||November 28, Rolling|
|Hillsdale College||MI||November 1||N/A||Early December|
|Hobart and William Smith Colleges||NY||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Hollins University||VA||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Ithaca College||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Johns Hopkins University||MD||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Juniata College||PA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Kalamazoo College||MI||November 1||February 1||December 1, March 1|
|Kenyon College||OH||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 7|
|Lafayette College||PA||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Lake Forest College||IL||November 1||January 15||Beginning December 15|
|Lawrence University||WI||October 31||N/A||December 1|
|Lehigh University||PA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Lewis & Clark College||OR||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Lynchburg College||VA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Macalester College||MN||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 1|
|Manhattan College||NY||November 15||N/A||January 1|
|Marist College||NY||November 15||February 1||December 15, February 15|
|Marlboro College||VT||November 15||N/A||December 1|
|Maryland Institute College of Art||MD||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|Meredith College||NC||October 30||N/A||November 15|
|Merrimack College||MA||November 15||N/A||December 31|
|Miami University||OH||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|Middlebury College||VT||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Moody Bible Institute||IL||December 1||N/A||January 15|
|Mount Holyoke College||MA||November 15||January 1||January 1, February 1|
|Muhlenberg College||PA||November 15||February 1||December 15, February 15-28|
|Nazareth College||NY||November 15||January 10||December 15, January 25|
|New York University||NY||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Northeastern University||MA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Northwestern University||IL||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Oberlin College||OH||November 15||January 2||December 15, February 1|
|Occidental College||CA||November 15||January 1||December 15, Early February|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||OH||November 15||January 15||November 30, January 30|
|Pitzer College||CA||November 15||January 1||December 18, February 15|
|Pomona College||CA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Providence College||RI||November 15||January 15||January 1, February 15|
|Quinnipiac University||CT||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Ramapo College of New Jersey||NJ||November 1||N/A||December 5|
|Reed College||OR||November 15||December 20||December 15, February 1|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||NY||November 1||December 15||December 15, January 15|
|Rhode Island School of Design||RI||November 1||N/A||December 8-14|
|Rhodes College||TN||November 1||January 1||Rolling (within two weeks of submission)|
|Rice University||TX||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Roanoke College||VA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||NY||November 1||January 1||December 15, January 15|
|Rollins College||FL||November 1||January 5||December 14, February 1|
|Sacred Heart University||CT||December 1||N/A||December 15|
|Saint Mary's College||IN||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Salisbury University||MD||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Santa Clara University||CA||November 1||January 7||December 31, February 15|
|Sarah Lawrence College||NY||November 1||January 2||December 31, Early February|
|Scripps College||CA||November 15||January 4||December 15, February 15|
|Sewanee: University of the South||TN||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Siena College||NY||December 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Skidmore College||NY||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Smith College||MA||November 15||January 1||December 15, January 31|
|Southern Methodist University||TX||November 1||January 15||December 15, March 1|
|Spelman College||GA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Springfield College||MA||December 1||January 15||Not reported|
|St. John Fisher College||NY||December 1||N/A||Rolling|
|St. Lawrence University||NY||November 1||February 1||Rolling|
|St. Mary's College of Maryland||MD||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|St. Olaf College||MN||November 15||January 8||December 15, February 1|
|State University of New York College at Geneseo||NY||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry||NY||December 1||N/A||Rolling|
|State University of New York Maritime College||NY||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Sterling College||VT||November 15||N/A||December 1|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||NJ||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Stonehill College||MA||December 1||N/A||December 31|
|Susquehanna University||PA||November 15||N/A||December 1|
|Swarthmore College||PA||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Syracuse University||NY||November 15||January 1||Beginning December 15, Beginning January 15|
|Texas Christian University||TX||November 1||N/A||January 1|
|The College of New Jersey||NJ||November 1||January 1||December 1, February 1|
|The Jewish Theological Seminary (List College)||NY||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|Trinity College||CT||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Trinity University||TX||November 1||January 1||December 1, February 1|
|Tufts University||MA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Union College||NY||November 15||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|University of Miami||FL||November 1||January 1||December 31, February 15-28|
|University of Pennsylvania||PA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|University of Puget Sound||WA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|University of Richmond||VA||November 1||January 15||December 15, February 15|
|University of Rochester||NY||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|University of San Francisco||CA||November 1||N/A||Beginning December 15|
|Ursinus College||PA||December 1||February 1||December 15, February 15|
|Vanderbilt University||TN||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Vassar College||NY||November 15||January 1||Not reported|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||VA||November 1||N/A||December 15|
|Wabash College||IN||November 1||N/A||December 5|
|Wake Forest University||NC||November 15||January 1||Rolling, February 15|
|Warren Wilson College||NC||November 1||N/A||Not reported|
|Washington & Jefferson College||PA||January 4||N/A||January 15|
|Washington and Lee University||VA||November 1||January 1||"Within a few weeks"|
|Washington College||MD||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Washington University in St. Louis||MO||November 1||January 2||December 15, February 15|
|Webb Institute||NY||October 15||N/A||December 15|
|Wellesley College||MA||November 1||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Wells College||NY||December 15||N/A||Not reported|
|Wesleyan College||GA||November 15||N/A||Not reported|
|Wesleyan University||CT||November 15||January 1||December 15, February 15|
|Wheaton College||IL||November 20||January 15||December 3, February 1|
|Whitman College||WA||November 15||January 1||December 15, January 31|
|Willamette University||OR||November 15||N/A||December 30|
|Williams College||MA||November 15||N/A||December 15|
|Wittenberg University||OH||November 1||N/A||December 1|
|Wofford College||SC||November 1||N/A||December 1|
Early decision can be a great option as it communicates to your school of choice how enthusiastic and committed you are to attending.
If your school offers Early Decision II and you feel you could benefit from a few more months to work on your application, it makes sense to wait for this later deadline. Either way, you'll find out earlier than regular notification if you got into your first-choice school!
Want to apply early but aren't sure about signing a binding agreement? This guide has the comprehensive list of all the colleges that offer early action.
Not sure applying early to college is right for you? Then take a look at the the most common college application deadlines to get an idea of what your application timeline could look like.
As you fill out your college applications, you want to think about how to present your high school resume in the best possible light. Read our expert guide for tips on how to write about your extracurricular activities on your college application.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.