For high school seniors applying to college in the 2021 admissions cycle, things are more uncertain than ever. College admissions officials are currently rewriting the wholistic review process. The pandemic that hit the U.S. in early spring had a huge impact on the metrics that had been used to differentiate candidates from each another. Many students are missing letter grades on their transcripts due to high schools turning to pass/fair grades. Students are missing core activities they would have been involved in if school had been in session. Not to mention, most universities have now made the SAT and ACT optional due to the lack of testing opportunities for students. Your child’s college list may be solid, but what about their application strategy? Here we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of applying early action and early decision for college applications.
Approximately 450 colleges have early decision or early action plans. Applying to colleges early decision (ED) or early action (EA) should be carefully thought out and understood.
The differences are defined as:
Early Decision – A student who is accepted early decision must attend the university if they are accepted. They will usually see their offer of acceptance by January. They will need to pay their deposit in advance of May 1st and withdraw all applications from other institutions. Students cannot apply to more than one school using early decision.
Early Action – Is non-binding. A student who is accepted early action has until May 1st to make the decision about attending, but they will receive the response of acceptance much earlier than regular applications. Students can apply to more than one school using early action.
Single-Choice Early Action – A small number of universities offer the single-choice early action option. A student may not apply ED or EA to any other college.
The following questions will help your child and family determine if an early application is appropriate in their situation. It is also important to know that The Common Application and some college application forms, require a student applying under early decision, as well as the parent and guidance counselor, to sign an ED agreement form spelling out the plan’s conditions. It is important to obtain this in a timely matter.
My child was thinking of applying ED to their top choice, is this a good idea?
If your child has researched all schools on their list and has a top choice that is above all other schools, if your child is a strong fit with their top choice university and financial aid and scholarships will not be a determining factor, then applying ED may be a benefit.
Students are unable to compare financial aid packets with each school when they decide to apply ED. They would need to accept it, with the package the school offers and not have the opportunity to see what other universities may have offered. Since aid varies greatly, this could be a negative factor.
It is possible that ED might increase your child’s chance of being accepted. It also saves time and the cost of submitting additional applications. When the student is accepted early they can begin looking at housing or other college preparation activities. They can focus on finishing off their senior year with a strong academic focus. It does reduce stress overall to not have to wait for decisions and weigh them out in late spring.
It would also be important that your student has seen the actual campus and knows the environment it is in. It can be a big shock to find that the campus a student thought they were being accepted to was not what they expected. Touring campuses may be an issue during this time of COVID-19.
What are the drawbacks to applying early?
One of the difficulties of applying early is when a student is hoping to be notified early and does not complete deadlines for other applications. If they are not accepted ED by a college they will have very little time to send out other applications. It is important to apply to all schools on the student’s list that are due within the year, just in case they need to focus on applications for other campuses.
How much of an increased chance is there that my child will be accepted if they apply early?
Early acceptance rates vary greatly across campuses. Colleges vary in the proportion of the class they admit as well as the percentage of early applicants. This application cycle will also be different than last years. Students can discuss with their admissions officers what the chance may be.
For more information on early action and early decision for college applications check out the College Board https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/early#:~:text=Early%20decision%20versus%20early%20action,reply%20date%20of%20May%201 or contact me for a 30 minute consultation https://abestfitcollege.com/schedule/