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I knew that studying in the US would give me more time to explore the areas I was interested in before having to narrow down to just one subject....
Meet Laura Tunbridge
at Yale College
"Don't let the processes that are involved and necessary in being able to study in the US stop you or hold you back, such as having to apply for a visa. It may seem daunting at first, but it's not that bad at all."
Melinda, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
The US application process follows a similar timeline to UCAS. However, it will seem a bit longer as you will apply separately to each university, have more space to discuss why you are a suitable applicant and will likely have to sit an admissions test.
The key to submitting a competitive application is to allow plenty of time to complete each of the steps of the process, concentrating the majority of your effort on the areas you can control, such as revising for admissions exams, preparing referees and writing strong essays.
If you need extra help studying for admission exams, preparing your applications or are interested in an exam preparation course, please see our Resources page for information on test tutors and educational consultants.
The Sutton Trust US Programme provides bright, state school students a taste of life at an American university. Sutton Trust programme participants benefit from support from our dedicated team of knowledgeable advisors throughout the process of applying for admissions and financial aid at American universities.
Universities will offer a variety of application deadline types. Most universities offer one early deadline type (early action, restrictive early action or early decision) plus regular decision deadlines. However, always check the university's admissions page for full details.
1. Rolling admissions - Students can apply over a set period of time (typically August to spring), and admission decisions will be made on a rolling basis. It is still suggested that applicants apply early (October/November) if possible. This type of deadline is non-binding and non-restrictive.
2. Regular decision - Students typically apply by 1 January in anticipation of an admissions decision by 1 April. This type of deadline is non-binding and non-restrictive. Students may apply to as many universities in the US as they choose under regular decision policies.
3. Early action - Students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding AND non-restrictive. Students may apply to as many universities in the US as they choose under early action policies.
4. Restrictive early action (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale) - Like early action, students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December. This type of deadline is non-binding.
However, check for restrictions in the university policies on whether you can apply to other universities while you have a restrictive early action application out. Generally speaking, you can only apply to one university restrictive early action, and this will be your only early application in the US. There may be exceptions in the university policy (check on their admissions page) such as allowing you to apply early to state universities with a non-binding, rolling admissions policy or to universities where the university application is considered for scholarships must be submitted earlier than 15 December.
5. Early decision - There are two early decision deadlines, ED1 in November and the slightly less common ED2 in January. These are more common at private liberal arts colleges. Like early action, ED1 students typically apply by 1 November in anticipation of an admissions decision by 15 December.
Early decision applications are binding. You should think very carefully before applying to a university early decision. You, your school and your parents will sign an early decision agreement, certifying that you understand the terms of early decision: the early decision university should be your first choice (worldwide) and if accepted, you will withdraw all other applications (worldwide) and attend that university. The only exception is if you apply for financial aid and do not receive sufficient aid to take up your offer.
You may only submit one early decision application in the ED1 and/or ED2 rounds. You should certainly apply to other universities in the UK at the same time to keep all options open, but know that you will need to decline your UCAS offers if admitted early decision in the US.
Early decision is also somewhat restrictive in that you cannot apply to more than one university early decision, but you may be able to apply to others early action at the same time. (Unless as stated above, the university you would like to apply to via early action has restrictions.)
Early Action and Early Decision applications allow you to apply early to US universities and receive admissions decisions well before the usual spring decision date, usually by December or January. The advantage of Early Action and Early Decision is that you are competing with a smaller applicant pool and are generally more likely to be accepted if you have the proper credentials.
Scenario 1 - Restrictive Early Action: If Princeton is your first choice university in the US or worldwide, you could apply there under their restrictive early action policy. This would be your only early application in the US.
Scenario 2 - If a UK university is your top choice: If Oxford is your first choice worldwide, you could apply to universities in the US under any non-binding deadline: rolling admissions, early action, restrictive early action (only one) or regular decision. However, you should not consider applying under an early decision plan.
Scenario 3 - Early Action: If University of Chicago is your first choice university in the US or worldwide, you could apply there under their early action policy and could apply to other universities in the US early action (but not restrictive early action: Harvard, Princeton, Yale or Stanford).
Scenario 4 - Early Decision: If Columbia is your first choice university worldwide, you could apply there under their early decision policy. If Chicago is your second choice, you could apply there early action, knowing that if you are admitted to Columbia ED you will withdraw the Chicago and any other applications worldwide.
If you are deferred from the ED round to the regular decision applicant pool by Columbia, you are open to apply to another university ED2 in January.