As if the college admissions process isn't overwhelming enough, a dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations is required to translate much of the information that you need to know.
Here is a reference guide to the alphabet soup of college application deadline abbreviations:
ED = Early Decision
If a student applies to a school by the Early Decision deadline, which is typically November 1, that application is binding. By submitting an application in the ED round, the student will have to sign a statement of binding agreement to enroll in this school if offered admission. Some schools with ED deadlines allow students to apply to more than one school but require that they withdraw other applications if offered admission. Other schools do not allow students to submit other applications in early rounds if they are choosing to apply ED. A student can expect to hear back in mid-December from an ED or ED1 application round.
Some schools have an ED1 and an ED2 deadline. The ED2 deadline is designed for students who are prepared to make a binding commitment to a school, but who need more time to prepare their application. This deadline is usually in January and the admissions decisions are communicated in February.
EA = Early Action
Early Action is a non-binding deadline. Students can apply early to indicate strong interest in a school, but they do not have to make a commitment to the school until May 1 if offered admission. EA deadlines typically fall around the same time as ED deadlines, in early November. Some schools offer EA1 and EA2 deadlines.
SCEA = Single Choice or Restrictive Early Action
This deadline is also non-binding like EA, but does not allow students to apply to other schools in the early rounds. They apply to one school early but do not have to commit to this school until May 1 if offered admission.
Some schools offer a priority deadline, which is also non-binding. This deadline is typically used for applicants who want to indicate strong interest in a school and are hoping to qualify for as much financial aid as possible.
RD = Regular Decision
Regular Decision deadlines typically fall between January and March. Students will be notified of admission by April 1 and have until May 1 to make a commitment.
Schools that offer rolling admissions are evaluating applications as they are submitted, rather than waiting to review a pool of applications in a particular round. With a rolling admissions process, the earlier you apply the better, as schools will be making admissions decisions until the class is filled.