College Admissions Jargon Explained
UFit College Consulting
It’s August, which means the kids are getting ready to go back to school and, if you are the parent of a high school junior or senior, you are going to start hearing a lot about the college admissions process. As with many other industries, the college industry uses many buzzwords that can be unfamiliar and confusing to anyone who is a newbie to this process. To help make things a little easier, we will outline some of the most common college admissions buzzwords and explain what they mean. We will start with the multiple ways students can choose to submit their college applications.
When many of us parents applied to college, there was a single deadline for submitting applications and admission decisions were mailed out on a given date or on a rolling basis. If you are like us, you probably remember checking the mailbox daily and hoping to find a fat envelope which meant good news. Today, most colleges offer a variety of application deadlines to students and a subsequent variety of decision notification dates. Understanding all of these options as well as their acronyms will be the focus of this blog.
ED stands for Early Decision (the binding one). Applying to a school early decision or ED means that if your student submits their application for their top-choice college by the ED deadline, they will receive an admission decision by the middle to the end of December. This is a binding decision, meaning if your student is offered admission, they must attend. Therefore, we only advise students to apply ED if there is one college -- from their curated list of colleges -- that they want to attend more than any of the others on their list. For some competitive colleges, applying ED can increase your student’s chances of admission a great deal, but they can only apply ED to one school. If your student gets admitted during the ED round, all other EA applications or rolling admission decisions have to be withdrawn.
EA stands for Early Action. Some schools do not have an ED option, but they may have the non-binding early action option. If a student applies to a school early action, they must submit their application by the EA deadline and, in exchange, they will hear back from the college earlier than those who did not submit the application by the EA deadline. Students are not limited on the number of colleges they can apply to early action. Usually, students can apply EA to public schools and some private colleges along with an application to an ED school.
SCEA stands for Single Choice Early Action. It is also commonly called Restricted Early Action. Only a handful of very selective colleges offer this option, and while SCEA is a non-binding agreement, there are varying rules regarding what other colleges you can also apply to in the early cycle. The advantage of applying to a top-choice college SCEA is that you will receive your admissions decision in December rather than March, while also signaling your strong commitment to the school. However, the opportunity cost here is that your student will likely not be able to submit an early application to any other private colleges. This choice is great for someone who has an extremely competitive application profile. Deadline for applying SCEA is typically November 1st. If you are accepted in December, you still have until May to make your final decision.
RD stands for Regular Decision. All colleges have a general application deadline that is the latest date students can apply. This is the regular decision deadline. Applying to a college regular decision is non-binding, and students can apply to as many schools as they want. They will just receive their decisions later than if they had applied ED or EA. January 1st is a common deadline for regular decision applications, but the date varies from college to college.
Rolling Admissions: Some schools process applications as they receive them and send out admissions decisions on a rolling basis. Some rolling admissions schools get back to students as quickly as within a week or two. The earlier a student submits their application to a rolling admissions school, the earlier they will hear back.
ED I and ED II (both are binding). Recently, some colleges have added an ED II application option. To explain the difference between ED I and ED II, imagine that your student has applied to their top-choice school ED I but is rejected when admissions decisions come out in December. They would then have the option of applying ED II to a different school that offers this option, which is ideal if they have a clear second choice. Like all ED decisions, an ED II decision is binding. If your student is accepted by the school they apply to ED II, the same rules apply; they must attend that school. ED II deadlines are usually in early January (shortly after ED I decisions come out). If your student has already applied to their second-choice school early action or regular decision, they can change their application to ED II at any college that has this option. Similar to applying ED I, applying ED II can make it easier to get into some schools because you are committing to attend that school, if accepted.
Having so many application options can be both a blessing and curse for students (and parents) today. The terminology can be confusing and looking up all the options offered by each school on your student’s college list can be time consuming. However, being strategic about how and when to apply to each school can help yield the best possible outcome for your student - being accepted to one or more of their top-choice colleges!
If you and your student need help navigating this complicated territory and creating an application strategy, please reach out to UFit College Consulting. Our certified college consultants would be happy to guide you.