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Eight Ways to Apply to College

Did you know that there are eight different ways for students to apply to college? No wonder the application process seems complicated for so many high school seniors!

Here, we break down the eight types of admissions, and also give tips for each.


When schools have a rolling admissions option, students can apply at any point during the application period and will get a decision back from the school quickly. Many larger state schools have rolling admissions.

If you’re applying to a school through rolling admissions, try to submit your application as soon as possible, even if it isn’t your top choice school. This is a great way to reduce stress and try to get at least one school acceptance right away.


If a school offers priority admissions, it means that a student’s application gets priority for admission as long as it’s completed within the application window specified by the school (which is often September 1 through December 1). The school will consider your application before students who apply after the deadline.

Early Decision

If you apply early decision and get accepted, you must attend that school. Students can apply to only one school with this method, so think hard about this one before moving forward with it.

Early Action

Using this option, students can apply early and get a decision quickly but are not required to attend if accepted. If you apply through early action, your application will likely be due in November, and you’ll get a decision by the second week of December.

You don’t have to decide right away if you want to attend an early action school. For this reason, you can still apply early decision to another college or university and wait to get that decision before deciding.

Restrictive Early Action

This option is a hybrid between early decision and early action. In this option, you’re not required to attend the college if accepted, but you cannot apply early decision elsewhere (it’s okay to apply early action to other schools).

Single Choice Early Action

If you apply this way, you may not apply anywhere else through early decision or early action. You need to be sure this is your first choice school because you’ll miss out on the ability to apply early anywhere else.

Early Decision 2

This is a second round of early decision that some schools offer, which is also a binding admission. The deadline for this type of application is usually January 1, and students hear back about admissions in February.

If you don’t get into your top choice early decision school, you can turn around between December and January 1 and apply to a school for early decision 2.


With this option, students can apply during the regular application period for the school. This is a non-binding application, and students can choose whether or not to attend if accepted. The application deadlines vary depending on the school.

Need help?

Not sure what the best option(s) are for you? Talk with your school college counselor, or reach out to an independent college consultant. We’d be happy to make a recommendation!