college students pointing at a laptop screen
college students pointing at a laptop screen

Understanding Non-Traditional Application Rounds

Colleges typically offer a variety of admission rounds to suit the needs of their applicants (you can read about the most popular in our blog post, Decoding College Admissions: A Closer Look into Admission Rounds). There are the traditional options, and then there are the quirky ones that require reading the fine print or being in the know. In this blog post, we’re going to highlight a few non-traditional decision plans and what they mean for you. 

Restricted Early Action / Single Choice Early Action

While Restricted Early Action (REA) and Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) are not necessarily new or unique, they definitely require reading the fine print and understanding the eligibility requirements. Colleges all have their own unique restrictions when it comes to applying REA or SCEA. Here are just a few examples:

  • Yale University’s SCEA plan has historically required that applicants only apply Early Action to Yale, with the exception of EA applicants to public universities or rolling, non-binding admissions plans. However, in 2023, they updated their policy to also allow students to apply ED or EA to any other institution so long as they are notified after January 1:  Single Choice Early Action for First-Year Applicants | Yale College Undergraduate Admissions
  • Georgetown University has one of the most flexible REA programs in that it allows students to apply to any other college under their rolling or Early Action plans. It only prohibits applying elsewhere as an Early Decision 1 applicant:  Early Action Program | Office of Undergraduate Admissions | Georgetown University 
  • A few other institutions that have REA or SCEA deadlines:
    • Stanford University (link)
    • Princeton University (link
    • Harvard University (link)
    • California Institute of Technology (link)
    • University of Notre Dame (link)

       

Switch to Early Decision 2 

One increasingly common option is the ability to rollover your deferred Early Action (EA) application to Early Decision 2 (ED2), or to change your Regular Decision (RD) application to ED2.  Colleges can get pretty specific about the deadline by which they allow this, so you’ll need to read the fine print! But here are some popular schools that allow, and sometimes even encourage, this practice:

  • The University of Miami allowed students this year to change their application round by Feb 9th, 2024. Students could also indicate whether they wanted to be considered for spring admission.
  • Tulane encouraged the practice this year as long as applicants made the change by February 1: Important Dates, Deadlines, & Forms | Tulane Office of Admission
  • Northeastern University encouraged deferred Early Action students to switch their application to ED2 in their deferral notification. 
  • University of Richmond’s website states that “students who apply by December 1 and later wish to switch application plans (from Regular Decision to Early Decision II or vice-versa) may do so up until the January 1 final application deadline; simply contact the Office of Admission prior to January 1 to discuss necessary documentation.”
  • Bucknell University sent an email to all Regular Decision applicants encouraging students to change their application to ED2 if Bucknell had become their top choice. They had one of the latest deadlines we saw this year – students could make the switch until February 23. 
  • Colorado College also allows deferred students to change to ED2: Early Applicant Information – Colorado College

     

Some colleges do not offer a formal Early Decision 2 plan to the public, but do offer select deferred candidates the ability to change their application. Elon University has historically offered an ED2 option to EA deferrals. Greg Zaiser, the Vice President for Enrollment at Elon, shared: “A very large percentage of our entire applicant pool each year applies under the Early Action deadline. Although the deadline is the same for both Early Decision (binding) and Early Action non-binding, the terminology can be confusing and students and families aren’t always ready to commit “early” to a school. EA applicants are identified for ED 2 given their level of demonstrated interest. As time passes, students engage with us more and we realize that they are among those most excited about Elon. 

We recognize that students who are willing and able to commit to ED even though they may have missed the ED 1 deadline, are those most likely to enroll. 

While making the switch to ED2 often means higher admit rates and an earlier decision notification, Zaiser further noted that the change isn’t for everyone: “Early Decision is a serious, honor bound commitment. Students should be “all in” before accepting the terms of ED, which often include a guarantee of enrollment except at times without knowledge of scholarships and other aid. If a student’s ability to enroll is contingent on financial aid, merit scholarship, getting into a special program or making an athletics team, they should not apply ED since many of these decisions are not made until after the early commitment date.”

Unique Deadlines and Scenarios

  • Bard College has historically offered some of the most unique application opportunities. Applicants can apply via traditional methods, or take advantage of in-person application opportunities and entrance exams:
    • Immediate Decision Plan (IDP): “In this day-long process, students first participate in a seminar-style workshop while parents and families can participate in a Q&A session with a senior administrator. In the afternoon, students are interviewed by a member of the Admission Committee who has already reviewed their application.” (link)
    • Entrance Exam: The Bard Entrance Examination offers a new way to apply to Bard that bypasses existing standardized tests and admission processes, leveling the playing field among applicants worldwide. The examination enables motivated students to gain admission through an essay test, engaging applicants in a process that more closely mirrors actual college coursework.” (link
  • Wake Forest University offers Early Decision 1 in a rolling format. Instead of applying by a deadline and hearing back on a specified date, students can (and potentially should) apply as early as August and hear back a few weeks later in the early fall, well before other schools’ Nov 1 deadlines. This means that if the student is not admitted (either denied or deferred), they could apply elsewhere ED1, providing multiple opportunities to take advantage of Early Decision benefits.

     

In 2023, Wake Forest also started offering Early Action, but only to a specific population: first-generation college students. This was a strategic decision in reaction to the SCOTUS decision to end race-based admissions.

Many institutions with a portfolio, audition, or additional creative component to the application restrict the early options for those applicants: 

  • Carnegie Mellon University does not allow Early Decision 1 for acting, directing, dramaturgy, music theater or the School of Music. Students applying to the Schools of Drama, Music, Design, Architecture or Art cannot apply Early Decision 2. 
  • Applicants to NC State’s studio-based majors in Textile or Design must apply by their EA deadline (Nov 1). The one exception is Music Technology applicants, who can apply RD. These studio-based applicants also have a different timeline when it comes to receiving their decisions: link.
  • The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has their own admissions supplement in addition to the application, which students should aim to submit by November 1 for best consideration (link).

     

Scholarships and Honors Programs

Finally, some colleges and universities have separate deadlines for students who want to be considered for merit based scholarships. These can be important to note, as they may be earlier than the application deadline:

  • The University of Pittsburgh utilizes a rolling admissions process, which means students can apply whenever they’d like. There are, however, benefits to applying as early as possible, including scholarship consideration: “First-year students who complete and submit an application for admission and all required materials by December 1 are automatically considered for University of Pittsburgh academic scholarships.” (Pro Tip: In recent years, we’ve heard that students receive the best consideration if they apply by November 1. After that, Pitt’s selectivity goes up and students are less likely to be admitted!)
  • Emory University requires that students apply by November 15, regardless of application round, to be considered for the Emory Scholar Programs. Note that this is much earlier than the January 1 Regular Decision deadline! 
  • Wake Forest University requires that students apply by November 1, regardless of application round, to be considered for scholarships.

     

Is your head spinning yet? With all of these unique deadlines, policies, and opportunities, it can be challenging to know what the best option is, and nearly impossible to keep track of them all! Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Reach out to Premium Prep to get started on your own admissions journey, with a counselor who understands the importance of these choices and the nuances of the application process. 

You can also find an abbreviated version of our College Application Workbook, a helpful organizational tool, in our new Mini Program!