Deadlines: The Importance of Priority Deadlines

Regular Decision, Early Action, Rolling Admission, Early Decision, and Single-Choice Early Action. 

So many deadlines! 

Do they really matter? 

And are they worth researching and adhering to if there is a priority deadline? 

Working as a high school college counselor, our college counseling curriculum requires that all students apply to ALL of their intended colleges by October 15th. Our hard deadline to apply to college is November 1st. The majority of colleges have a priority deadline of October 15th or November 1st. If students are required to apply by October 15th, we do not have them research each college’s application deadline, because their application will be submitted well before the Regular Decision deadline. If most Regular Decision deadlines are not until January or February, then why apply by the priority deadline?

Money and Admission.

Students applying by the priority deadline have a higher chance of being accepted and receiving merit aid in their acceptance letter. This money is in addition to the possibility of receiving more aid in their financial aid package distributed in late March. Many colleges do NOT offer institutional aid unless a student applies by the priority deadline and files the FAFSA and/or the CSS profile. Applying early shows the college that the student is extremely interested in the school and that the college is at the top of their college list. Another perk of applying early is that applications are reviewed early and students will receive a decision earlier than when applying during regular admissions. Students can also gain some insight to acceptance rates when asking the college representatives the following questions.

Last year, what percentage of students were accepted who applied early?

Last year, what percentage of students who matriculated to your college applied early action?

In what months is the majority of merit aid given to students?

Typically, in what month does institutional money run out? 


Adhering to priority deadlines may overwhelm parents and students at the beginning of senior year, but after November 1st, students can enjoy the rest of the year without stressing about college applications. They will be more focused on college acceptances and comparing college costs once they receive their financial aid packages.