How Long Do Graduate Admissions Decisions Take?

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Updated: March 20, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

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For college graduates, the application process for postgraduate studies can be arduous. The uncertainty surrounding admissions causes candidates to struggle to plan their next actions without a defined timeframe. 

In this blog, we will discuss how long do graduate admissions decisions take to help you understand the application schedule for a smooth application process.

How Long Do Graduate Admissions Decisions Take?

Graduate admissions decisions vary based on the institution’s application timetable. The Common Application opens on August 1st each year, marking the first day of the application period. The time it takes to hear back from a graduate school often depends on the application timetable that particular institution adheres to. 

A large gathering of graduates donning caps and gowns

Generally, graduate schools with rolling admissions often respond within six to eight weeks. Conversely, these institutions that have tight deadlines take more time as they have to review every application before reaching a decision. Different universities have varying application procedures with respective deadlines.

The Common Application received over 7 million applications for the 2022–23 academic year. Start creating your Coalition App profile in the 9th or 10th grade, as it carries 70% weightage in the school applications. The Coalition Application officially launches in July or August every year. 

Universities Application Windows

Graduate schools’ application windows typically open around August 1st for every fall semester. At this point, you can start sending your applications after reviewing the current criteria and application materials. 

However, many students take their time, polish their applications just before the deadlines, and submit them at the last minute. Some schools may have slightly different deadlines, below are the most common application windows:

Early Decision 

By selecting an early decision, you can submit your application and get a decision well before the usual date. However, you should exercise caution since it is a commitment, and if accepted, you are obligated to attend that particular institution, restricting your early choice application to only one.

A few universities provide two different dates for early decisions. The first one begins at the beginning of November and ends in the middle of December. If accepted, you will still be obligated to the early decision school, however; you are free to apply to other schools during this time as an early action candidate. 

With the second early decision deadline from mid-November to February, you can expect to hear back from the graduate institutes within about two months. If your calendar fits that deadline, you can apply to additional institutions as a normal decision candidate. 

Early Action 

Students studying at tables in a quiet library

Early action admissions follow a similar procedure to early decision admissions. However, with one difference—early action admission offers are not legally binding. This means that if you are accepted through early action, you can still choose to enroll in another school.

Early-action candidates who are accepted typically have until a specific date to make a final decision. They can expect to receive their admission decision about one to two months after the application deadline, regardless of whether you submit your application within the original or subsequent early action wave.

Early action admissions have their advantages. You can know your admission status for preferred institutions before making regular admission choices, which helps you prepare more effectively. However, the early application deadline is a significant drawback, and the application process can be more stressful than ordinary admissions.

Regular Decision 

Applying to graduate schools during the typical decision time is when most students do it. The exact dates of this period could vary from school to school, it often begins in early January and ends around the middle of February. The usual time frame for admissions decisions is March to early April, and candidates are asked to respond by May 1st with an affirmative or negative response. 

In the 2022–23 application cycle, the majority of candidates (53%) leaned towards Early Action (EA), while just 13% opted for Early Decision (ED). The standard decision date gives applicants plenty of time to gather the necessary application documents before the last chance to submit them. Compared to applicants who used early action, there will be less time to finalize offers. 

Unlike early application procedures, there are no limits on the number of schools you apply to during the normal decision time. This means you have more freedom to choose your university during this last application window.

Rolling Admission Deadlines

Rolling admission is a process where schools evaluate applications as they arrive, usually within four to six weeks of submission. Opting for a rolling admission policy is the best way to know your acceptance status as soon as possible. 

A diverse group of students gathered around a table eating and talking

On the other hand, rolling admission deadlines may vary between December and April. To fill available spaces, some graduate schools may not have a specific deadline for application evaluation. However, some prefer applications received by a certain date, called a priority deadline. Apply early for schools with rolling admissions to secure a spot and not miss out on any opportunities. 

Applying early for admission saves time due to a shorter decision-making process. Another potential disadvantage is that the chances of acceptance may be higher if you apply early in the application cycle.

Transfer Deadlines

If you are considering moving schools, the application procedure differs for first-year and transfer students. Most schools have two transfer admissions deadlines every academic year, in the spring and the fall. 

Although the application date for spring transfers is often in November or December, the deadline for fall transfers might be as late as April or June. Certain institutions admit transfer students on a rolling basis. Remember that transfer deadlines sometimes change, so it’s best to visit the admissions page of the institution you’re interested in to get the most up-to-date information.

Factors Influencing Decision Timelines

The duration of a graduate program application can vary significantly, ranging from a few weeks to several months. However, this timeline is determined by various factors.

Application Deadlines

It’s important to remember that different schools have different application deadlines, which affects how long they will take to decide. Schools with open admissions policies tend to respond more quickly because they review applications on an ongoing basis. 

However, schools that have set due dates for applications take longer to make decisions because they have to review the applications they receive before selecting a few to admit. Potential students need to be aware of these deadlines so that they can set realistic expectations and prepare accordingly.

Type of Program and Degree Level

The time it takes to select also depends heavily on the kind of graduate school and the intended degree. Decision times for master’s programs are often shorter than those for doctorate programs due to differences in applicant volume. 

However, for specialized and competitive programs, the decision-making process may take longer to conduct a thorough evaluation.

A woman sitting at a table, reading a book

Institution-Specific Factors

It takes time for decisions to be made since every school has its own set of procedures and rules. Important considerations include:

Candidates might improve their ability to predict decision timeframes by familiarizing themselves with the unique dynamics of each institution and applying accordingly. 

Application Completeness and Accuracy

The level of detail and accuracy in the applications submitted plays an important role in the speed of decision-making. Applications that are prepared well, with precise and well-organized information, are more likely to secure a place in the university.

However, incomplete or inaccurate applications may cause delays in the decision-making process, as more time must be spent verifying the information provided. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can We Apply to Colleges After the Deadline Has Passed?

Post-grad school admission offices often have strict deadlines and will not accept applications submitted after the due date. It is important to make sure that you send in your applications by the due date if you have a specific entry time.

Can You Get into Graduate School Without an Interview?

Different graduate schools and degree programs may have their policies for conducting interviews. Some schools may require an interview for their admissions process, while others may not. It is best to review the application criteria for each graduate school and program to find out whether an interview is necessary.

What Time Do Graduate School Acceptance Letters Typically Arrive?

The time it takes for graduate school acceptance letters to arrive may vary depending on the admissions process. If the institute uses a rolling admissions process, it can take up to two months to receive a decision after you apply. Post-grad institutes with specific admissions deadlines usually send out decision letters at specified times of the year.


How long a graduate admissions decision takes, depends on the type of application and other external factors. Prospective students must understand application deadlines, program details, and institutional factors. When approaching a particular process, it is important to be patient, adopt a strategic approach, and have reasonable expectations.

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.