Life after high school: Alphabet soup and your senior year |

Life after high school: Alphabet soup and your senior year

Welcome to your senior year, class of 2016. It is a really great time of year with so many things to look forward to before graduation.

It is also a bittersweet year. Many of you will be heading off to college and leaving behind parents, pets, siblings (although this might not be so bittersweet) and even close friends, to embark on a very life changing next four years, wherever it may be.

But before you can begin this journey, you have to actually complete the college application!

Chances are if you are applying to an average of 8 or 10 schools, you will be using the Common Application (, which boasts a membership of 580 colleges and universities.

If you have opened your account, you might have already seen a bunch of letters squished together to represent decision plans, or rather, different deadlines for your individual college applications.

ED, EDII, REA, EA, Rolling, RD … what does it all mean!? This alphabet soup can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be, if you know what they mean and how they will apply to you. Keep in mind not all colleges have all decisions plans and many still adhere to RD, regular decision, as the only decision. Let’s sort out the plans, shall we?

Early Decision (ED) I or II are binding decision plans and usually have an early November deadline for ED I and a deadline in January or February for ED II.

Students filing under ED, affirm they WILL attend the institution should they be admitted. Students may still be offered financial aid under this decision, but will generally not have the opportunity to compare “packages” from other institutions.

Students may only apply to ONE institution under ED and decisions are usually available by the end of December for ED I and in February, for ED II.

Early Action (EA) is a non-binding decision plan and generally includes deadlines in November or early December with decisions arriving in late December, January or February.

Students may apply to as many colleges/universities with EA as they would like and will have until May 1 to make their decision.

Restricted Early Action (REA) is a non-binding decision plan and includes deadlines in November or early December.

By applying REA, a student may apply to only one college/university early, and the student has until May 1 to make their decision. It is non-binding.

Other plans include rolling admission and those colleges/universities with special scholarship deadlines. Schools with rolling admission are those institutions who start accepting students as the completed applications arrive in the admission office.

A student could reasonably expect a four-week turnaround on a decision, depending on how early they submit their completed application. Students still have until May 1 to make a decision. There are many colleges/universities with regular decision deadlines (January 1, for example), but might have an early scholarship deadline (December 1, for example).

A scholarship deadline is for students who would like to be considered for “merit scholarship” money which is usually based on academics, and not based on financial need.

Always check directly with the institutions where you will apply for the final deadlines. Whichever decision plan you choose, do not sacrifice the quality of your application for the speed of submission.

Talk it over with your guidance counselor and parents. Be thoughtful, be thorough and be complete. Review your work! You have ONE shot. Make it great.

Katy Watts is the college counselor at Tahoe Expedition Academy. She holds a Masters in Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential and is entering her 14th year as a school counselor. For last 10 years, she has focused on college counseling and helping domestic and international students find educational opportunities in the United States and abroad. She may be reached for comment at

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