7 Different Types of College Applications

Compared to college applications in the UK, Canada and other countries, college applications in the US is often regarded as the most complicated. There are more than 4,000 colleges in the United States. They all have different deadlines, and there are often several different ways to apply for the same college. Surely most students and parents may have heard of some, but may not know the whole story.

Now, let’s take a look at the 7 different types of college applications in the US.


The full name is Early Action. There is no need to sign any mandatory agreement with the university when applying EA at a university, so the application is not binding. Students can apply EA at multiple schools. If offered admission through an EA application, students can still choose not to enroll.

Example Schools with EA Applications: California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


The full name is Early Decision. The biggest difference between ED and EA is that ED applications are binding. Before submitting the application, the student and a parent will need to sign an agreement stating that the student is required to enroll if offered admission. Once admitted to the school through ED, the student must enroll. For every application season, students may only choose to apply ED at one institution.

Example Schools with ED Applications: Columbia University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University


The full name is Early Decision II. The difference between ED II and ED is that ED II has a later deadline, usually set around the same time as the deadline for Regular Decision Applications. Note that compared to schools offering ED applications, there are fewer schools that offer ED II applications.

Example Schools with ED II Applications: University of Chicago, Emory University, New York University


The full name is Restrictive Early Action. REA requires that at the early application stage, students may only apply to one school through REA, but if offered admission, they may choose to enroll or not, meaning that REA is not binding. Note that REA is exclusive: Choosing to apply through REA means that students cannot apply to any school through ED, neither can they apply to any private schools through EA.

Example Schools with REA Applications: Harvard University, Stanford University


The full name is Single-choice Early Action. If students apply through SCEA, they may not apply through EA and ED at any other school, but they may still apply through RD.

Example Schools with SCEA Applications: Princeton University, Yale University


The full name is Regular Decision. Applicants can apply through RD at multiple universities at the same time. RD is neither binding nor exclusive, and students may decide whether they want to enroll or not if offered admission. Most schools set the deadline for RD applications as January 1 of the following year, and results usually come out between mid to late March and April 1 of the following year.

All universities offer RD round applications.


Rolling refers to rolling admission. Schools that implement rolling admissions do not set a specific deadline, or they may continue to accept applications on a rolling basis after a specific application deadline if seat availability permits. Because there is no guarantee that there will be any seats left for applications received during rolling admission, students who have preference for certain schools should submit their applications as early as possible

Example Schools with Rolling Admissions: Penn State University, Colorado University of Mines

College admissions is a complicated process, and there are certain pros and cons when it comes to choosing the type of application to use when applying to certain schools, especially the top-tier ones. Choosing different types of applications means that your application will be read and compared with different pools of other applicants, and there are varying strategies to differentiate your profile among others.

At Enlighteens,we are dedicated to assisting students with planning and applying through every stage of the application process. We know that every student have a different background and a distinct set of strengths as an applicant, and we take pride in helping students show their uniqueness to their dream schools.

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