How Long do College Applications Take?


Kate Sliunkova

AdmitYogi, Stanford MBA & MA in Education



4 min read

How Long do College Applications Take?

How much time is normally needed to submit college applications?

It's impossible to give a universally accurate estimate of how long it takes to fill out a college application. Generally speaking, though, submitting an application can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

The preparation that goes into submitting your college applications is normally on the longer end (several months). This is because you’ll have to ensure you gathered relevant materials you can send to every college. This includes—amongst other things—a personal statement, your SAT and ACT scores, a detailed list of your activities and awards, recommendation letters, information on your parents, discretionary questions, and identifiable details.

After you’ve prepared those materials, you’ll also have to prepare school-specific essays (often called supplementals). The amount of effort you put into these essays varies by the school and how much you care about attending it. Generally speaking, though, you should spend roughly 4-6 weeks working through essays required by the schools you’d like to most attend.

How long does it take to get accepted into college?

A common question people have after submitting their applications is how long does it take for a college to accept you? The answer to this question varies by what type of application you have submitted and also the school you’re applying to. Some schools, including many state institutions, utilize rolling admissions. This means they hand out decisions on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, and you can expect to receive a decision only a few weeks (and potentially even a few days!) after you’ve submitted your application.

Other schools, including most private institutions, have two periods of decisions. The first is the early period (often called early action or early decision). Normally, students are required to submit their applications in November or December, which is several months earlier than regular deadlines. The advantage of this is that students will often receive their college decisions only 4-6 weeks after submitting their application, and for many schools (particularly those that participate in Early Decision), submitting early also boosts your shot of admission.

If you submit your applications during the regular decision round (where applications are normally due in January), you’ll have to wait a bit longer for results because admissions officers have to read through many more applications than they did for early decision rounds. As such, if you submit your applications during the regular decision period, you’ll have to wait for likely 6-10 weeks. All told, this means that applying to college can be a months-long process of carefully crafting applications and waiting for results. It’s thus important to read through examples of successful college essays.

Do colleges look at applications before the deadline?

Many students often wonder whether or not it’s worth submitting their college applications before the deadline. This is because they believe that colleges care when they submit an application. But truthfully, colleges do not care when you submit an application as long as it’s before the deadline.

The one exception to this rule are schools with rolling admission deadlines (like many state schools), as acceptances and scholarships are awarded based on availability, and these are more likely to be available early on in the process.

That said, it’s still advisable to stay on top of college applications. Students often report their application portals crashing on the day of application deadlines due to many students visiting the application portal websites at once. To save yourself any worry, you should try to submit your applications at least 1-2 days early, if possible.


College applications can be a tricky process, but they don't have to be! By staying on top of your deadlines, you can make college admissions stress-free and streamlined. Hopefully, this article helps you understand the timeline for college applications. Best of luck!

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Jaden Botros

Stanford (+22 colleges)

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