There are many different application schedules around and sometimes the implications are not clear to candidates. Admissions committees like to know the size of the applicant pool and quality of candidates as early as possible because there is typically some kind of institutional goal about class size or quality target they are trying to achieve. So if you are an applicant, it pays to understand the implications each round may have because it can be far beyond how quickly you hear about the status of your application.
What is priority or early round?
Priority round (sometimes called early round or something similar) application deadlines for professional school admission typically are the very first cycle. The priority rounds deadline dates vary across institutions, but they typically kick off the application processing period. I call this “paper cut season” because admissions staff get so many from opening envelopes of application materials in the incoming mail.
The priority round admission cycle is worth planning for. Typically candidates in these rounds get first notification of the admission decision, and sometimes, they are eligible for the largest amount of financial aid. It is quite logical – nothing has been awarded yet so the pool is still in tact 100%. Early priority round deadlines mean you will need to plan ahead to know what materials are due before the deadline date. Some schools will allow lots of late documents if the online application is submitted before the deadline, others allow only selected documents to come later, and still others expect every application credential to be in the office on or before the priority deadline date.
Applicant notifications are typically held to a common date and released en masse for this round and those release dates are frequently published ahead of time. Admissions committees would like you to apply in the earliest rounds possible so we have longer to work with you, get to know you, and receive your letter of intent to enroll sooner.