Application Deadlines for Top Colleges and Universities

Learn When Your College Applications Need to Be Submitted

Princeton University. Patrick Nouhailler / Flickr

For regular admission, you're going to need to have most applications for highly selective colleges done by January 1st. Less selective colleges often have later deadlines, but applying earlier can improve your chances of getting financial aid and ensure that spaces in specific programs haven't filled.

Key Takeaways: Application Deadlines

  • Most highly selective schools have deadlines between January 1st and 15th.
  • Less selective schools often have deadlines in February or even later. Some have rolling admissions and no official deadlines.
  • Admissions decisions for highly selective schools are usually released between mid March and early April.

When Are College Applications Due?

Application deadlines vary significantly from college to college. Typically, the country's most selective colleges and universities have regular admission deadlines between January 1st and January 15th. Be sure to keep track of the specific deadlines for the schools on your application list, for some will be earlier. The University of California system, for example, has a November 30th deadline.

You'll find that less selective schools often have later deadlines—in February in many cases, although some schools have rolling admission and never really close the application process until no more spaces are available.

In the tables below, you'll find application deadline information and notification dates for top colleges and universities. You'll see that the deadlines are all within a couple weeks of each other, ranging between January 1st and January 15th (be sure to check each school's admissions website for the most up-to-date information, since application deadlines and notification dates can change from year to year). All information below is from the individual school's websites for the 2018–2019 admissions cycle.

Application Deadlines for Top Universities

College Application Deadline Notification Date
Brown January 5 Late March
Columbia January 1 Late March
Cornell January 2 Early April
Dartmouth January 2 On or before April 1
Duke January 4 Late March
Harvard January 1 Late March
Princeton January 1 By April 1
Stanford January 2 By April 1
University of Pennsylvania January 5 By April 1
Yale January 2 By April 1

Application Deadlines for Top Liberal Arts Colleges

College Application Deadline Notification Date
Amherst January 4 On or around March 20
Carleton January 15 By April 1
Grinnell January 15 Late March / Early April
Haverford January 15 Early April
Middlebury January 1 March 21
Pomona January 8 By April 1
Swarthmore January 1 By Mid-March
Wellesley January 8 Late March
Wesleyan January 1 Late March
Williams January 8 By April 1

Reasons to Apply to Colleges Ahead of the Deadline

Keep in mind that you will be better off applying well before these application deadlines. Admissions offices get swamped in early January. If you submit your application a month or more ahead of the deadline, the admissions officers will be less harried when reviewing your materials. Also, keep in mind that you'll be demonstrating less-than-ideal organizational skills if your application arrives at the last possible minute.

Applying well ahead of the deadline demonstrates that you work ahead of deadlines, and it can also help demonstrate your eagerness, something that plays into demonstrated interest. Also, if you happen to be missing application materials, you'll have plenty of time to take care of such issues.

When Will You Receive an Admissions Decision?

Decisions for regular admission applicants tend to arrive in mid- to late-March. MIT famously releases their admissions decisions on Pi Day, March 14th. At all schools, students need to decide whether or not they will attend by May 1st. This means you'll have at least a month to visit the campuses of schools that have admitted you, and even do an overnight visit to make sure the school is a good match for your personal and academic goals.

It's also worth noting that top schools often communicate with their top candidates before the March notification date in the form of a likely letter. These letters essentially tell an applicant that they are very likely to receive good news when decisions are released in March. 

What about Early Action and Early Decision?

Realize that the above deadlines are for regular admission. Deadlines for Early Action and Early Decision are often in the first half of November with decision dates before the new year. If you have a clear top-choice college, applying through Early Action or Early Decision can significantly improve your chances of being admitted. Keep in mind that Early Decision is binding, so you should use this option only if you are 100 percent sure a school is your top choice. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of applying to college early before doing so. 

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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Application Deadlines for Top Colleges and Universities." ThoughtCo, Feb. 14, 2021, Grove, Allen. (2021, February 14). Application Deadlines for Top Colleges and Universities. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Application Deadlines for Top Colleges and Universities." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 7, 2023).

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