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Last updated March 5, 2024

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How long does it take to get accepted into college?

Key Takeaway

You’ll probably hear back from the colleges you applied to within one to two months. But the time it takes to hear back may vary depending on when you submitted your application and which application plan (ED, EA, RD) you chose.

So you’ve applied to college. Congratulations! …Now what?

You might be finding the waiting process even more grueling than the application process. There’s nothing like nervously waiting to hear whether all your hard work paid off.

Never fear. You’ll learn your admissions decisions soon enough. In this post, we’ll go over a standard admissions timeline and talk about how your timeline will vary depending on your application plan.

The Basics

Of course, when you apply determines when you’ll hear back. The date by which you apply will vary by your application plan. If you apply under an earlier plan like Early Decision or Early Action, you’ll probably get your decision earlier, too. But in general, it usually takes admissions offices 1-2 months to return your admissions decision.

Application Plans

Let’s take a look at the six most common types of application options.

Early Action

Early Action is a non-binding application option that lets you apply early but doesn’t include any commitment like Early Decision does.

Typically Early Action applications are due at the beginning or middle of November, and applicants typically hear back around mid-December.

At some schools, if you aren’t admitted in the early round, you’ll be moved to the Regular Decision round for another review, which may delay your admissions decision until late winter or early spring.

Restrictive Early Action

Restrictive Early Action is an application option that is especially popular among highly selective institutions.

Most REA application plans aren’t binding like Early Decision, but they do restrict where and how you are allowed to apply early to other institutions. They are typically due in early November, and you typically hear back in December.

Early Decision

Early Decision applications are binding. That means that when you apply Early Decision to an institution, you’re making a commitment to attend if you’re admitted. Early Decision applicants typically hear back around mid-December alongside Early Action applicants.

There are, of course, pros and cons to applying ED. The main pros are that you can demonstrate your excitement about a college, and you often benefit from slightly higher acceptance rates. The con is that you have to make a commitment before you know all of your options. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into applying ED, so we've put our advice into an Early Decision strategy guide to help you out.

Regular Decision

Regular Decision is the most common application option. Regular Decision due dates tend to be at the beginning of January, usually between January 1st and 15th. Sometimes the due dates can go into February or later, though. When you apply Regular Decision, you can usually expect to hear back about your admissions decision before April.

Early Decision II

Didn’t get into your Early Decision school? You may still have the option to benefit from a higher Early Decision acceptance rate.

Some schools offer Early Decision II application plans, which have the same stipulations and benefits as Early Decision I but are due around the same time as Regular Decision applications (usually early January). Typically, you’ll hear back about your Early Decision II application at the same time Regular Decision applicants hear back—around February or March.

Transfer Applications

Transfer applications are less predictable than first-year applications, but they tend to be due anywhere from February to June.

Some can be due as early as January or as late as August. Others yet offer transfer applications on a rolling basis (see the next section for more on what that means). Admissions offices usually like to process transfer applications after the big rush of first-year applications, but sometimes they happen simultaneously.

You’ll typically hear back about your transfer admissions decision within a month or two after submitting your application.

Rolling Admissions

“Rolling admissions” is what we call it when schools accept applications throughout the year. Whereas some schools have specific due dates like November 1st or January 5th, schools with rolling admissions allow students to apply for any upcoming term at any point.

Admissions officers at schools with rolling admissions read applications throughout the year, too, so you won’t have to wait until the major decision releases in the winter or spring to get your answer.

Typically, students applying under a rolling admissions policy will hear back within a month or two as well.

What’s the holdup?

Still haven’t heard back yet even if other applicants have? You may need to do some investigating.

  • Check your application portal and email.

Your admissions decision might be delayed if all of your application materials aren’t completed on time. If your transcripts, letters of recommendation, school report, or any required scores aren’t available, then admissions officers won’t be able to review your application until you submit them.

I’d say this most often happens with materials that busy school counselors have to submit (namely the transcript, letter of recommendation, and school report)—especially when students forget to tell their counselors that they’ve applied to certain schools.

All this is to say that if you haven’t heard back about your application by the time you think you should have, check to make sure your application is actually complete.

  • Double check the application plan you chose.

Sometimes students accidentally indicate that they intend to apply Regular Decision even when they apply before the Early Action due date.

Since admissions offices typically prioritize Early Action applications first, it’s likely that your Regular Decision application will be moved to the back of the queue until the Regular Decision round. There may not be much you can do about this, but you can try contacting the admissions office to ask if you can change your application plan.

  • Did you submit your application really early?

Unless you’re applying to a school with rolling admissions, admissions officers will most likely wait to review your application until on or around the due date. So if you submit your application on August 1st but the Early Action due date isn’t until November 1st, you’re probably still going to be waiting for the mid-December release date alongside all the other EA applicants.

Key Takeaways

Once you submit your application, you should expect to hear back within a month or two about whether you were accepted, waitlisted, or rejected.

Still working on other applications? Check out our advice about crafting a cohesive application narrative.



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