Is It Bad to Apply for Regular Decision?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Smiling female student looking at the laptop.

Is It Bad to Apply for Regular Decision?

Is it bad to apply through Regular Decision? The short answer is no. Regular Decision, which typically has a deadline in January or February, gives students more time to strengthen their applications, finalize their list of colleges, and assess their financial needs.

Some colleges indeed have higher acceptance rates in their early rounds, but this doesn’t mean that Regular Decision is inferior.

In fact, Regular Decision offers the freedom to choose from all received acceptances and compare financial aid packages. Unlike Early Decision, it doesn’t bind you to one college upon acceptance. This guide aims to clarify why Regular Decision might be the right choice for many students and to address common misconceptions about it.

What Does Regular Decision Mean?

The application deadline for Regular Decision typically falls on January 1st each year. Choosing the Regular Decision process means you won’t be submitting during the Early Round. Instead, you’ll receive the admissions committee’s decision in spring, usually between late March and early April.

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The Regular Decision applicant pool is generally larger, as it encompasses the main applicant pool for the upcoming year. However, due to the volume of applications, the admit rate for Regular Decision is often lower than that of Early Decision or Early Action.

Pros of Regular Decision

  • Applicants have until a later date to submit, usually from early December to late January.
  • If aiming to improve ACT or SAT scores for better acceptance chances or more scholarships, Regular Decision allows for this time.
  • It offers extra time to perfect college essays.
  • If uncertain about your major, Regular Decision provides more decision-making time. However, you can also apply as undecided and choose your major after enrollment.

In summary, Regular Decision allows:

  • Extended scholarship application deadlines, offering more time to boost ACT scores and increase financial aid opportunities.
  • More deliberation time if undecided about college choice.
  • No pressure for early commitment upon acceptance.
  • Comparison of aid packages from various institutions.

Cons of Regular Decision

  • Responses might only arrive in spring or at the academic year’s end.
  • With only about three months before leaving, graduation preparations might become more hectic. This might answer the question of whether it’s bad to apply for Regular Decision. The stress of college decisions, coinciding with AP exams and finals, can be overwhelming.

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The disadvantages include:

  • Late responses to your application.
  • A busy period due to graduation planning, exams, and other events, all while applying to colleges.
  • With many applying at the same time, standing out can be challenging.

Why Should You Apply to College Early?

Students who submit their applications during early action or early decision rounds often have higher acceptance rates compared to those who apply during the regular decision round. However, it’s crucial to review the admissions requirements of each college you’re considering, as their criteria for early applicants can differ.

Academically excelling students are more inclined to apply early. Those who do are often highly interested in a specific university, indicating a strong likelihood they will accept an offer if given one.

Most selective colleges have application deadlines between the end of December and mid-February each year. They also typically have earlier deadlines, around the beginning of November, for those applying through Early Action or Early Decision. This article delves into the advantages and some potential drawbacks of using these early admission routes.

Applying to a selective institution via the Early Decision or Early Action program can often more than double your acceptance chances. Early applicants constitute over forty percent of the student population at many of the country’s top institutions. However, it’s important to note that opting for Early Decision entails a binding commitment. This means students must attend if accepted and therefore lose the chance to compare financial aid offers from different institutions.

What Exactly Is Meant by the Terms “Early Action” and “Early Decision”?

It’s crucial to understand the distinctions between the Early Action and Early Decision admission programs, as they differ in several key ways:

Early Action

This is a popular choice for many students as it allows them to submit applications to multiple schools. Even if accepted, they aren’t bound to enroll. Students typically have until May 1 to make their final decision.

Single-Choice Early Action

Similar to Early Action, applicants are not obligated to enroll if they’re accepted. They also have until May 1 to decide. However, the difference lies in the application process. With Single-Choice Early Action, students can only apply early to one institution, though they can apply to other schools through non-binding regular admission programs. This limitation provides colleges with a clearer picture of an applicant’s genuine interest compared to the standard Early Action program.

Early Decision

This is the most binding of the early admission programs. Applicants can only apply to one college through Early Decision. If accepted, they must commit to that institution and withdraw all other college applications. It’s crucial for students to be certain about their choice when opting for Early Decision.

Does Applying Early Improve Your Chances?

Many colleges assert that they evaluate students applying through Early Action and Early Decision using the same, if not stricter, standards as regular admissions.

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While this might hold true in some respects, it’s evident that top-performing and highly interested students often apply early. Those who don’t meet the criteria for early programs might find their applications deferred to the regular admission pool, while unqualified students are outright rejected.

Despite college claims, the actual admission statistics suggest that chances of acceptance are notably higher for those applying through Early Action or Early Decision.

Why Colleges Favor Early Applicants

    • Early applicants represent a significant portion of the student body at many prestigious institutions, including Ivy League schools.
    • Early applicants often display higher motivation.
    • These applicants are typically well-organized, readying their applications by November or even earlier.
    • Applying early signifies dedication to the institution.
    • Early applications give colleges an earlier indication of the size of their incoming class, reducing spring’s unpredictability.

Benefits of Applying Early, Be It Early Action or Early Decision

    • Enhance your acceptance odds.
    • Show your keen interest in a particular college.
    • Receive your admission decision, typically by Christmas, reducing spring stress.

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Additional Advantages

Less Stress: Colleges often convey decisions to early applicants by November, leading to reduced wait times and application-related work.

Cost and Time Savings: Applying to fewer colleges means fewer application fees and less time spent on multiple essays.

More Prep Time for College: An early acceptance can wrap up your college search, providing more time for logistics like housing and class schedules.

Flexibility to Reapply Elsewhere: If not accepted by your top choice, you’re equipped with application experience and can reapply to other institutions.

Drawbacks of Applying Early

    • Commitment: Early Decision applicants must enroll if accepted.
    • Financial Limitations: Making an early choice means fewer financial aid packages to compare, potentially limiting your negotiating power.
    • Earlier Deadlines: Early applicants need to finalize their materials sooner than regular applicants.
    • Test Timing: If you’re taking the SAT or ACT after October, applying early might not be feasible.

Who Should Not Submit an Early Application and Why?

Every prospective student’s situation is unique, so no single strategy guarantees success. However, there are instances when students might reconsider submitting an Early Decision or Early Action application:

Your Grades Aren’t Up to Par

Colleges primarily evaluate academic performance when considering applications. To stand out in the early applicant pool, it’s imperative to have a high GPA and a strong junior year. If you struggled in your junior year, showcasing an upward grade trend during your senior year’s first semester can enhance your chances during regular admissions. But delaying to Regular Decision is only beneficial if you genuinely intend to improve.

You Might Retake the SAT or ACT

Though many colleges have opted for test-optional policies recently, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, if you’re submitting test scores, ensure they align with previously admitted students’ scores. If not, consider retaking the SAT or ACT and applying in the regular rounds.

You Haven’t Visited Any Colleges

Visiting colleges is a critical step in the selection process. If you haven’t visited your Early Decision or Early Action choice, prioritize doing so. With pandemic restrictions easing, you can choose between in-person or virtual tours. Visiting not only demonstrates your interest but also helps tailor your application, especially if school-specific essay questions are involved.

Remember, Early Decision is binding. Ensure you’re confident about your choice before committing.

You Haven’t Started Your Application

Avoid hastily assembling your application just days before the early deadline. In competitive early rounds, there’s no room for errors, and a last-minute submission might appear sloppy or rushed. Take the time to craft a compelling application for the regular decision.

You’re Unsure About Your First Choice

Early Decision commitments are serious. If you’re not fully committed to attending a school, don’t apply for Early Decision there. Backing out of an Early Decision for reasons other than inadequate financial aid can jeopardize your standing at other institutions.

Early Action, Early Decision, or Regular Decision: Which is Best for You?

Applying early can be beneficial if you understand the process and the commitment level. Start by researching and identifying your dream colleges. Ensure they align with your academic and social aspirations. Match the institution’s profile in terms of SAT/ACT scores, GPA, and class rank. If you’re considering Early Decision, double-check that you genuinely want to attend those schools. Remember, an Early Decision acceptance is a binding commitment.

Need help with the college admissions process? At AdmissionSight, we guide students and families through every step of the college planning journey – from searches, essays, and interview prep to financial aid consultations and final school selection. With over 10 years of experience, we excel in navigating the competitive admissions landscape.

We can help you prepare all your admission requirements and boost your chances of gaining entry into an Ivy League institution.


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