Regular Decision Deadlines for Top Universities in 2023-24

By Brandie Erickson December 18, 2023 College Application College Search

Timing is key to a successful college application. When a student starts their essays, requests letters of recommendation, and even when they start doing their college research, can all play a role in how successful they are in the college application process. 

As we approach January, that means the regular decision deadlines for many colleges are right around the corner. Here is everything students need to know about the regular decision application process. 

Understanding Regular Decision

Many high school students have submitted their Early Action (EA), Early Decision (ED), or Restrictive Early Action (REA) applications—which typically are due in November—and are now gearing up for their Regular Decision deadlines. 

The majority of the thousands of colleges and universities in the United States will have regular decision deadlines, most of which occur in early January. Students can apply to as many regular decision schools as they want with no restrictions and can wait until May 1 to make a decision and pay their enrollment deposit. 

Advantages Of Applying Early Decision

Because the deadlines for regular decision are later than the ED or EA schools, it can be advantageous for students who needed more time to prepare their applications. For example, they might want to demonstrate strong grades in the fall semester or still be taking standardized tests to get their desired scores. They also will have more time to perfect the college application essays, which could help them stand out through the college application process.

Another big advantage of regular decision applications is that students aren’t obligated to attend if accepted. Therefore, they can compare financial aid offers or wait for an acceptance from their top schools. It gives the student more flexibility when choosing where they want to spend the next step of their academic journey. 

Key Components Of Regular Decision Applications

Once a student has decided applying regular decision is right for them, they will need to start to compile the application pieces. These are the components that a student should consider: 

  • Deadlines. While the deadlines for many top undergraduate programs are listed below, students should verify all deadlines directly on the colleges’ websites to ensure that nothing is overlooked. 
  • Transcripts. Students should put in requests for official transcripts with their high school counselor once they have solidified their college list. 
  • Standardized test scores. While many colleges like the University of Chicago or Bowdoin College are test-optional, meaning students don’t have to submit their SAT or ACT scores when applying, it might be to a student’s advantage to submit their scores if they are competitive with the average accepted applicant. Most schools don’t require an official score but instead want the students to self-report their scores on the application platform. Verify this information directly with the college. 
  • Letters of recommendation. Most colleges require two letters of recommendation from teachers. Typically, these teachers should teach core subjects like English, history, science, math or foreign language, and should have taught the student in their junior year. Students who have yet to ask a teacher should ask immediately to ensure that the teacher has time to write a thoughtful letter. 
  • Activity list. Students typically will have the space to describe the activities they spent time doing during high school. In this section, they can talk about summer programs, school clubs, internships, volunteer work, shadowing experiences, and even family obligations. 
  • Essays. Nearly every university requires students to submit a personal statement. This 650-word essay can be on almost any topic of the student’s choice. The goal of the personal statement is to showcase the student’s good qualities or accomplishments and how they might be an asset to the campus community.

    Many colleges also require school-specific essays. These essays, which tend to be 150-500 words, ask students to elaborate on why they selected their major, describe an activity they participated in, or detail a challenge they’ve overcome. For example, Johns Hopkins University requires the following supplemental essay: “Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g. race, gender, sexuality, religion, community, etc.) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins.”

When submitting regular decision deadlines, don’t wait until the last minute. In the past, the Common App and other application platforms have crashed on the day of major deadlines, like January 1.  You can see the full list of schools in the article here.