The early bird gets into their top choice school, so they say (don’t they?). It’s never a bad idea to be ahead of the game, especially when it comes to college applications.
Beyond simply reducing your stress, however, apply early action or early decision can have measurable benefits, such as saving you time and money, improving your chances of acceptance into one of your top choice schools, and giving accepted students more time to prepare for college.
For starters, if you apply early and get into your top choice school, you can use all that money you saved on application fees to, say, throw yourself a party. In addition, at many schools applying early means fewer applicants and therefore an increased chance of acceptance. Harvard admitted 14.5% of its early action applicants for the class of 2022, but only 4.59% of its regular decision applicants. Most schools perceive an early action or early decision as a higher level of commitment from the student, and that’s always an app booster.
If that all sounds too good to be true, then here’s your reality check: there are a few things to consider before you apply early.
How to decide
First and foremost, you have to ask yourself, are you really ready to “put a ring on it” (to borrow a phrase from Queen Bey)? Is your heart completely and utterly set on attending THAT school? Does this college offer the exact academic and social environment for you to excel as a student? Have you visited the campus, spoken to students, faculty and/or alumni? Are you a strong match academically, as measured by your SAT scores, GPA and class rank? If you’ve done your research, visited campus, taken in sage advice, and generally jumped through all the hoops, and your answer is still an emphatic yes, then fill out those forms, write those essays and send that app!
Early Decision vs. Early Action
Don’t be thrown by the industry jargon–both Early Decision and Early Action offer prospective students the opportunity to receive an admissions decision months before the usual acceptance date. The key difference between the two is that Early Decision is binding, while Early Action is not.
This means if you apply Early Decision and are accepted then you are committed. No time for cold feet, you’re in it for the long haul (or for four years, at least). Additionally, the student must withdraw any applications that have been sent to other schools. Early Decision is not legally binding, which means the school won’t take legal action if you break the agreement and turn down an acceptance. However, the school will notify other colleges that you apply to that you have broken your agreement and any other acceptances may be rescinded.
Early Action, by contrast, is the keepin’ it casual version of early apps—you are signaling that you’re into them, but not walking down the aisle just yet. This allows you to apply to other schools, compare admissions offers and then make a decision, and with Early Action you generally have until the late spring to make their final decision.
How to Prepare
Most early applications are due in November, which means you will need to plan ahead. Students that hope to apply early should begin touring perspective campuses. Remember, you want to make a well-informed decision regarding early applications, and boots on the ground is the best way to do your research!
Early applicants must also take any standardized tests no later than October of senior year. We suggest taking the test the summer before your senior year in case you feel you want to retest in October. Requests for letters of recommendation must be made by the end of September to ensure your recommender can meet your early deadline. And of course, early applicants must begin their application, including their personal statement, as soon as possible—the Common App goes live August 1st!
Applicants seeking financial aid will need to complete their FAFSA prior to submitted early applications as well. The FAFSA opens on October 1st so you’ve got plenty of time to get your financial documents ready to go. After you’ve submitted your early applications in November, and taken one deep breath, it’s important to focus on completing your regular decision applications. Trust us, you don’t want to be scrambling during the holiday season if your early application doesn’t work out.
Now, read up and get smart:
- College Parent FAQs
- Supplemental Essay Analyses 2018-19
- Admissionado College Case Studies
- Admissionado’s Guide to Senior Year
- Admissionado’s Guide to Junior Year
- Essay Brainstorming Guide
- Admissionado’s Guide to Elite College Admissions
That’ll get you started. Still have questions? Reach out, and let’s gab.
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