The University of Illinois physics PhD deadline is January 15th. When I submitted on January 1st I got an email confirming submission and it included the following:
"Committee reviews will begin immediately after the application deadline, January 15 for Fall term. Admissions decisions are typically completed by March 15 for Fall admission. Decisions will be sent to you via e-mail."
However, the GradCafe results board shows that multiple applicants received offers within days of applying.
The more I think about it, the more this doesn't make sense for the program to do. Aren't they missing out on potentially more qualified applicants who are busy and haven't applied yet (deadline isn't for another 5 days)? What if these offers they are sending out BEFORE the deadline are accepted? They are reducing the number of spots in their program.