As neighbors of the best two universities in the world—Harvard and MIT—Cogito World Education has gathered keen insight on what it takes to reach the top! Our experience with getting students into the best schools is what sets us apart. With Harvard and MIT students working at our company, and after communicating with various admission officers, we’ve gathered a wealth of information on what you should know before applying to the top 50 colleges and universities in the US!

American universities have unique system of applying for admissions that may be initially difficult to understand for international students. With the opening of the Common Application (more on that later) on August 1st, now is the time to start thinking about which round of admissions you want to submit your application to. Here is some key information about each of the offered admission rounds, and all the things to keep in mind before you begin gathering your application materials:




After you’ve decided which schools you want to apply to, look precisely where they would like their application materials submitted (visiting the schools’ website is the most effective way). Most of the top 50 schools have a supplementary application in The Common Application, a portal that gives you the opportunity to send one centralized application as well as supplementary applications for schools that require additional materials.





Now it’s time to decide which round you want to submit your application to.

Early Action and Early Decision applications are usually due around early November, with decisions coming out sometime in December! However, it is crucial to know that the two differ in very important ways.


Early Decision is a binding agreement to a university and, if accepted, you are required to withdraw all other applications and enroll here. Although being known for slightly boosting chances of acceptance (not drastically, but schools take being committed to their school as a positive factor), you must be sure that this is your top school and would commit to attending if accepted. This means that you have done all the possible research on the school and know it is the one for you! Some schools participating in early decision programs include Pomona, Columbia, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, NYU, Duke, Brown, Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Early Action lets you receive your decision early as well but is NOT a binding agreement to a university. In fact, you can send multiple early action applications to all the schools you want. It’s a great option to have already been accepted to a college by December so that, if you decide to continue in the Regular Decision round, you have a baseline of where else to apply. However, there are categories within the Early Action program that schools establish which you should be aware of. There are Restrictive Early Action or Single-Choice Early Action programs which limit you to apply to only one early action school. You are not committed to attending if accepted, but you must wait till the regular decision round to apply to other schools you wish to apply to. This shows that the school is likely to be your top choice, but you still have till May 1st to decide where to enroll. Although it may seem like an obvious choice to apply to your top school for the early action program (if they offer it), you must be sure that your application is ready for submission for the earlier deadline. This means that your SAT score is as high as it can be, your letters of recommendation are submitted, your essays are fully edited, and your interview prep is completed. If they’re not, don’t panic! The regular decision round may be right for you. Some schools participating in the regular early action program are Boston College, the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, CalTech, MIT, and Georgetown. Some schools participating in restrictive early action include Harvard and Stanford. Schools participating in single-choice early action include Yale and Princeton.

Regular Decision applications are usually due in early January, with decisions usually coming out in March. Although both early action and early decision are known for having higher acceptance rates than the regular decision rounds, this is because the applicant pool is usually stronger in the early rounds, not because the chances are higher for individual students. Applying early can be a little difficult if not all components of your application are quite ready for submission yet (test scores, essays, letters of recommendation, etc.), so it’s important to know where you stand. If you feel that the extra few months can help you improve your college applications, then it is highly recommended to apply in the regular decision round!


If you are not sure which round to apply to, our offices offer counseling in these decisions! We recognize that circumstances differ amongst individual students, and we are committed to helping maximize each student’s potential.



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