What frustrates you more – being on time for a show and it starting late, or arriving late for a train and it departing when it was scheduled? If you answered the former, there’s not a whole lot you can do, as that situation is out of your direct control. If you get frustrated more when you are the one late, use that as motivation when you are applying to U.S. colleges and universities. Why? Deadlines matter.
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular school and have done the necessary research to learn that your chances of being admitted are reasonably good, you need to do everything in your power to make sure your application makes it to the admissions office in time.
While there are a variety of different types of admissions deadlines: Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Admissions (and others), in almost all cases students need to be aware of the specific dates and meanings of each of the types of deadlines to be. Here’s a great article explaining the different types of admissions decision processes.
As international students it is essential you understand the different options available at each of the schools you are considering applying to in order to decide which path you wish to take. Many colleges will indicate that your application, including all of the supporting material (test scores, application fee, essays, transcripts, recommendations letters, and any other items must be “post-marked” by the published deadline.
In all cases, the best advice is to be in touch with each institution to learn their exact definitions of their deadlines. One very succinct answer is that when you physically give your package to the post office with the right amount of postage (stamps) to mail your application and other supporting documents, that is the post-marked date as that will typically be stamped on the package in some way.
In the end, if you are normally someone who waits till the last minute to complete assignments you will want to be extra careful with these important steps. On the other hand, if you are done early, there is no real reason to wait. Send it in early! While being early will not make a difference in whether you are admitted or not, doing so can at least give you some peace of mind, knowing that everything has arrived before the deadline.